South Africa hosts AGOA amid  three new developments 

AUSAID South Africa vegetables

The renewal of a major free trade pact is the defining topic at the ongoing 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum in South Africa

Signed during Bill Clinton’s presidency and terminating in 2025, the free trade pact gives some AGOA members tariff-free American market access. Hence, key beneficiaries will be seeking to renew the deal for 10 more years during the ongoing session.

Proponents for the deal will bank on the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  Since it fosters seamless regional trade, AfCFTA is  likely to lure American investors to root for Afro-American free trade.

Another new development in the Johannesburg forum is the reinstatement of trade benefits for Mauritania. This follows Mauritania’s current willingness to provide better working conditions for its workers.

In 2019, the Sahel region country lost AGOA benefits for not improving the rights of its workforce. 

A third major development is the end of membership for Uganda, the Central African Republic, Niger and Gabon. 

U.S. President, Joe Biden cites low human rights profiles in the four nations as the reason for the terminations. AGOA posted the cessation notice on its website on October 31, 2023.

South Africa: an AGOA agricultural profile

The forum is taking place just 7 months after President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Washington to negotiate continued trade benefits.

South Africa’s agriculture is multi-pronged and embraces all sectors. The country’s key fruit exports include citrus and table grapes.

The main specialty crops include sugar cane while staples range from potatoes to wheat and soybean produce.

In terms of animal products, South Africa exports milk, beef and poultry. 

On a comparative basis, the AGOA deal with the U.S. favors South Africa. Between the years 2000 and 2022, the African state has annually enjoyed more exports to the U.S. than vice versa. 

South Africa exported goods worth $2.403 billion to the U.S. in 2000. By 2021, the value had reached a record-breaking $15.74 billion, which lowered to $14.57 billion in 2022. 

The U.S., on the other hand, witnessed its exports to South Africa climb from $2.83 billion in 2000 to $7.078 billion in 2012. The 2022 exports to its African ally clocked $6.52 billion. 

Despite this export-import disparity, the two countries have always enjoyed a fair trade balance. 

South Africa will specially capitalise on this amicable relationship in this year’s AGOA forum, which runs between November 2 and 4.