South Africa remains resolute in hosting the AGOA summit despite prior tensions with the US. The upcoming event, slated for November, signifies renewed commitment to strengthen trade ties. South Africa’s call for a decade-long AGOA extension underscores the pivotal role this partnership plays in fostering economic growth and cooperation.
South Africa is set to host the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Summit later this year, despite recent diplomatic tensions between the country and the United States (US). In June this year, US legislators called for the relocation of the summit due to controversy surrounding alleged arms shipments to Russia by South Africa. Cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal judicial panel, the US has reaffirmed its commitment to shared growth with South Africa.
“The AGOA Forum is an opportunity for the United States to build upon the success of the Africa Leaders’ Summit and further our economic partnership with AGOA countries,” stated US Ambassador Katherine Tai in a statement announcing this year’s summit from Washington.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa not only celebrated the country’s hosting of the summit but also called for the renewal of the agreement for another decade. The current format of AGOA is set to expire in 2025. Emphasizing the importance of South Africa-US relations, Ramaphosa declared: “The US remains a very important economic partner in trade and investment, with great potential to further expand economic ties,” in a press release.
AGOA currently benefits eligible sub-Saharan countries by providing access to US markets for several thousand products, including duty-free access for some exports. South Africa continues to be the largest exporter in the agreement, generating approximately $2.7 billion in revenue for the country as of 2021, primarily from vehicles, jewelry, and metals.
The controversy surrounding the visit of a Russian ship, the Lady R, docking at a South African military base in December 2022, led to the politicization of the AGOA agreement by bipartisan representatives in the US. However, a subsequent South African investigation cleared the country of exporting arms to Russia as part of the incident, resulting in a restored commitment by representatives of both countries to mend strained relations.
The AGOA summit, scheduled for early November in South Africa, will bring together key delegations from all member countries, regional economic entities, as well as representatives from the private and public sectors. The goal is to strengthen trade and economic ties between the US and sub-Saharan Africa.
The summit will also feature a ‘Made in Africa’ exhibition, specifically focused on demonstrating regional value chains on the continent.
“AGOA has helped promote the export of African goods to the United States, and we believe there is scope to deepen its impact on African industrialization,” said South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, reaffirming Ramaphosa’s commitment to extending the deal. “Extending it beyond 2025 will promote inward investment in Africa and support our efforts to increase growth through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will cover 54 countries and 1.4 billion people.”