USCIB joined other private-sector executives, non-governmental organization leaders and trade association representatives in supporting the long-term enhancement of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an economic agreement between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa that supports African female entrepreneurs by increasing their access to global supply chains.
“Since its inception, the AGOA program has been designed to both fuel African economic development and advance good governance, democratic reforms, and economic inclusion, including for the women of the continent,” wrote USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and other senior representatives in a letter to Congress in support of the AGOA program.
African countries must meet eligibility criteria to participate in the AGOA program. USCIB and others urged Congress to create a new criterion focused on eliminating gender-based discrimination in the workplace. USCIB member companies UPS, Wal-Mart and GAP signed the letter and are actively engaged on African issues.
The AGOA program gives African businesses preferential market access in exchange for African government commitments on good governance and policies that increase trade and investment. The authors of the letter to Congress cited a United Nations report that shows that the gender gap in Africa, namely low female workforce participation, has limited the region’s economic growth.
“For this reason,” wrote the authors, “we strongly believe a renewed AGOA should ensure that beneficiary countries demonstrate progress on female economic empowerment.”
USCIB and others also urged U.S. policymakers to create incentives within AGOA to encourage African governments to fully implement the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which will reduce the time, cost and complexity of trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Earlier this month, USCIB and the Business and Industry Advisory Council to the OECD released a report on Women’s entrepreneurship, “Putting ALL Our Ideas to Work: Women and Entrepreneurship,” which offers practical experience to policymakers in identifying best practices, addressing obstacles and implementing policies that will help unleash the potential for women’s entrepreneurship activities.
The AGOA program expires in September 2015 if it is not reauthorized.
“We encourage you to use this important opportunity to shape a bill with provisions that will enhance the participation of female entrepreneurs across the African continent by generating new opportunities, igniting growth and strengthening regional economic integration,” wrote Robinson and the other authors.