Kenya is not utilizing the full potential of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in spite of the benefits the mechanism has brought.
Speaking at an AGOA summit in Nairobi, US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said in spite of the success a lot remains to be done.
“Bluntly, Kenya, and the rest of Africa, has yet to take full advantage of AGOA. To do so, we all need to get out the word about AGOA far and wide. AGOA provides an opportunity, but to take advantage of it, companies first must know about it and then they must act,” said Godec.
Godec said the recent 10 year extension of AGOA is a strong signal the US is committed to expanding trade relationship with Africa.
Since 2001, AGOA has extended duty-free trading between sub-Saharan African countries and the US. Exports to the United States under AGOA reached $25.5 billion in 2014 with non-oil exports from the region growing four-fold.
It builds on existing US trade programs by offering duty-free benefits to African countries for over 7000 types of products, including apparel and footwear, agricultural products, chemicals, steel, and many others.
“Most importantly, AGOA-related investment has created over 300,000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa. These jobs underpin economic development, improved livelihoods, and strengthen communities across Africa,” said the envoy.
In Kenya, exports to the US though the AGOA mechanism reached $300 million in 2013, mainly from apparel manufacturing.
Ambassador Godec said the recently established East Africa Trade and Investment Hub aims to work with Kenyan traders get the most out of AGOA benefits.
The hub provides information and support to promote deeper regional integration, increase competitiveness and boost trade with the United States.
“Today, the Hub helps Kenyan companies improve their products, get American market information and connect with American buyers. This initiative is expected to create at least 10,000 jobs in the region over the next five years,” added Godec.
However, the ambassador said Kenya needed to build strong institutions and end corruption.
“As I have said many times, corruption is undermining Kenya’s future. It must end. It is destroying jobs and causing investors to take their money elsewhere.”