AGOA Ten Years On; How are Women Faring?

Ten years ago the US Congress passed the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), designed to provide economic development assistance to lesser developed economies in sub-Saharan Africa and open up trade opportunities.

While the act has been criticized by some as not in keeping with WTO provisions, it has benefited trade between the US and Africa, and has helped with export and product quality standards, and SME development.

An AGOA forum has been held annually, rotating between an African and a US location. This year’s forum is being held August 2-3 in Washington DC, and is expected to attract trade leaders and experts from 38 African nations.

The Brookings Institution has published a report reviewing the state of AGOA in advance of this meeting, which is available at this site. However, a review of the report shows that women rate only one sentence in the 25-page document: “In addition, AGOA has also helped tackle inequality in African countries by creating more employment opportunities, especially for women.”

Hmm, chances are that AGOA has done more than that for women’s economic empowerment. But, as we well know, what does not get measured does not get managed – nor discussed at fora. C’mon folks! Here’s hoping that women’s economic empowerment will rate more than one sentence at this upcoming discussion.

There’s a good change that it will, though, thanks to the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, which is bringing women business leaders from Africa to Washington, to attend the AGOA Forum and to meet with government and business leaders in Washington, DC and in Kansas City. Three cheers to the State Department and USAID for making this happen.

One thought on “AGOA Ten Years On; How are Women Faring?

  1. The potential impact of a delayed renewal of the third country fabric provision of AGOA is grave. Third country fabric is the most successful components of the AGOA legislation and can be credited with over 100,000 direct jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Apparel orders are drying up due to the uncertainty surrounding the provision. In Kenya alone, over 40,000 factory workers could very likely lose their jobs if third country fabric is not renewed in a timely manner. The apparel industry in SSA rely on the third country fabric provision; without it there is a very real possibility that the investors in the apparel factories will pack up and move production to some other part of the world as happened in Madagascar following its loss of AGOA eligibility in 2009. This would cause enormous economic strife in countries that are strong partners of the United States. On September 30, 2012, the third country fabric AGOA provision will expire. With barely six months to go, further delay threatens the lives of 1 Million people, mostly women who work in the apparel sector. We estimate that each factory worker supports ten additional people. If third country fabric is not renewed soon, these jobs will disappear and Africa’s poverty rate will sour by over 55%.
    Dr. Richard Mutule Kilonzo, Chief Executive, Export Processing Zones Authority – Kenya

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