Nichalas Achiri Asangwe
President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cameroon. I also work for Ecobank.
He led a Cameroonian private sector delegation to the AGOA Forum in the USA, on 26 September 2016.
What are the main outcomes of this 2016 AGOA Forum?
Coming together, all delegations from diverse African countries met and discuss at the US Department of State in Washington, DC. with US government officials. From this discussion we saw the obstacles that prevent Africa from taking full advantage of the possibilities that AGOA offers them. The key takeaway is the fact that we recognize they are challenges and we have to deal with them.
In some countries, for example Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire, AGOA is implemented successfully and the ideal is to migrate those best cases to other African countries.
In the examples that you just mentioned, there is only one so-called francophone country. Does that means that AGOA in general does not succeed in the French-speaking part of Africa?
Not at all! I did it purposefully, not to mention my own country, Cameroon. Just last week, Cameroon signed an agreement with the USA on a project to develop our water resources. The USTDA will be funding that project. Also, a US company will in the coming year build around 50 bridges in Cameroon. This company has worked in other African countries, for instance Ghana and Benin. Cameroon is a bilingual country, 85% French speaking and 15% English speaking. Senegal, a francophone country, is benefiting from AGOA.
This said, you may be right that francophone African countries are not embracing AGOA as quickly as Anglophone countries. This means that more educational work is needed to create general awareness for AGOA in the entire African continent.
AGOA has been implemented in Africa for the past 15 years. What has it brought so far to Africans?
For the past 15 years, AGOA has created 44,000 jobs in Africa. Women have 80% of these jobs. It shows how AGOA empowers African women. AGOA was renewed last year for a new period of 10 years. I think that the next nine years, AGOA will create more jobs. America is a huge market so huge that one single African country cannot satisfy that market's demand. Hence the importance of African union and regional integration. African countries and enterprises must cooperate to supply in quantity and quality the US demand.
Could you name two or three success story of AGOA in Africa since AGOA exists?
Ethiopian leather exports in Africa is one such success. Other African countries should copy what Ethiopia is doing here. Kenya is exporting tea and flowers to the US thanks to AGOA.
AGOA has also contribute to technology transfer from the USA to Africa. For instance, during this forum, we heard story of Proctor and Gamble, the US firm, that has established training programs in Nigeria for SMEs.
The USA is a highly industrialized country that has the world highest GDP. Africa is mostly agricultural and Africa's GDP is still low. Can AGOA be a fair instrument of exchanges between two such disparate economies? How?
Thanks to AGOA, trade flows have hugely increased between Africa and the USA. Between 2001 and 2015 Africa's export to US moved from 1 billion US dollars (USD) to 4 billion USD. In the same period, US investments in Africa moved from 9 billion US dollars to 30 US billion dollars. Last week, McKenzie released a report showing that Africa's manufacturing capacities will double from 500 billion USD one trillion USD from now to 2025. A large part of this comes from the energy sector, in particular oil and gas; infrastructure.
How does US exchanges with Africa compare with Chinese exchanges in Africa, and how do you assess the trends between those two exchanges?
The USA is well positioned to take very much increase its exchanges with Africa. Yes, there is now a competition, with China, with Europe, India etc. If the US is competitive it will gain its right size of the African market.
Could you tell us how AGOA works, what opportunities it creates for African entrepreneurs, and what should these entrepreneurs do to seize those opportunities?
To summarize, I would say AGOA, or African Growth Opportunity Act, is about accessing the US market. AGOA was signed by the Congress during President Bill Clinton's administration in 2000. It took effect in 2001 for the next 15 years. Last year, that marked the first OGOA 15 years, President Obama's administration renewed AGOA for the next 10 years.
AGOA is about allowing Africans to use very low tariffs in order to boost their exports in the USA. For that, countries have to be eligible, by meeting a number of standards. Exported goods should respect a given minimum quality. These goods include a variety of products from textile to commodities.
Asian countries very successfully export to the USA. They did not, and do not, need an Asian equivalent of AGOA for that success. Is AGOA really playing in favor of Africans?
Africa is the least developed continent; it's a poor continent. AGOA grants preferential trade agreements to Africa. The US has trade agreement with numerous countries in the world. But AGOA, to repeat, is a preferential agreement.
Some Africans continue to criticize AGOA on the ground that it perpetuates in Africa a colonialist type of trade, Africa exporting predominantly raw materials. You have mentioned flowers, tea, textile. What do you respond? Can AGOA help Africans to advance in the value chain?
Absolutely, and that why this forum is important. We want AGOA to create a broader value chain of AGOA. Transforming goods to make exports more profitable for Africans. We are looking for partnership. Most African countries lack infrastructure. If you want to export fruit juice to Africa, you need infrastructure and energy that for instance will keep fruits and the juice at an indicated temperature before they can be exported to the US markets. Africa still lack that type of infrastructure. She also lacks farm to markets roads. That's why during this forum, we've talked about partnership to build infrastructure in Africa.
You are now in the USA. Next month, a new US president will be elected. President Barack Obama has been in power for eight years. How do you evaluate President Obama's legacy to Africa?
"Power Africa" initiative is the single most important thing President Obama has done for Africa during his two terms as US President. Without power, there is no development.
What exactly is "Power Africa"? What has it done concretely to Africans? What can it do for them in the future?
Power Africa gives Africans the possibility to develop their energy sector and generate enough megawatts...
...I wanted to know AGOA concrete achievements in Africa...Has "Power Africa" built power plants in Africa?...
... Power Africa has highlighted Africa's energy potential. For instance geothermal energy in Kenya, hydro capabilities in Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia. It has created a platform for discussion and investments in the African energy sector...
...What you are saying still doesn't show me anything concrete, in what you say is yet the "single most important thing" President Obama whose father was African, has done for Africa... Everybody knows that Africa has a big energy potential. AGOA is not bringing anything new in this regard...
... Power Africa has set up a fund to develop energy in Africa.