President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa delivered a compelling address at the opening ceremony of the 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, emphasizing the importance of industrialization and the untapped potential of AGOA in promoting trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.
The ceremony, held at the Johannesburg Expo Centre, was attended by key dignitaries, including Mr. Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition of South Africa, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, Mr. Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals, and Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.
In his address, President Ramaphosa underscored the unique opportunities and challenges facing Africa at a crucial juncture in its development.
He highlighted Africa’s abundant reserves of critical minerals, a youthful population, increasing urbanization, and a growing networked population, all of which present enormous potential for the continent’s future.
Ramaphosa reaffirmed Africa’s commitment to industrialize its economies and add value locally, emphasizing the need to move up the value chain. He stressed that such a strategy would not only create jobs but also enhance the lives of over 1.3 billion people on the continent.
The President also emphasized the need for Africa to transform its raw materials into advanced industrial and consumer goods.
He encouraged the United States to collaborate with African nations to facilitate an investment-led approach that focuses on diversifying international supply chains for critical minerals and promoting beneficiation within Africa.
President Ramaphosa lauded AGOA, which has played a pivotal role in fostering economic ties between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa for over two decades.
He noted the economic benefits it has brought to African countries, particularly in terms of manufactured exports to the U.S., while acknowledging that AGOA’s full potential remains untapped.
Ramaphosa expressed the need for early reauthorization and renewal of AGOA, with a focus on improvements to ensure that the legislation achieves its goals and reaches its maximum potential.
He urged for enhancements that would make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to leverage AGOA.
The President highlighted success stories under AGOA, such as Lesotho, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Madagascar, and Kenya, where apparel exports have generated jobs and established reliable production for American consumers.
He also mentioned South Africa’s auto exports under AGOA, which contributed to job creation and regional industrial development.
In conclusion, President Ramaphosa called for more significant efforts to promote investment in Africa and the strengthening of AGOA’s opportunities. He expressed concerns about trade restrictions affecting AGOA utilization, particularly for products like steel, aluminum, and citrus fruit, and urged discussions to address these issues in the future.
He also welcomed the interactions between private sector representatives, the newly introduced Labour Forum, and the Civil Society Forum as vital components of the AGOA Forum.
The President concluded by inviting U.S. retailers, importers, and corporations to consider Africa as a key source for industrial procurement, promoting the development of more resilient supply chains.
President Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to the delegates, exhibitors, social partners, and sponsors who contributed to the success of the Forum, particularly acknowledging Standard Bank, Sasol, and South 32, along with other generous sponsors.
He wished the attendees fruitful deliberations and officially declared the 20th AGOA Forum open for business. President Ramaphosa also extended an invitation to enjoy South Africa’s warm hospitality and celebrate with the newly crowned Rugby World Champions.
The 20th AGOA Forum promises to be a platform for substantial discussions on the future of U.S.-Africa trade and economic relations, with an emphasis on enhancing industrialization and mutually beneficial cooperation.