As the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum kicks off at the Nasrec Expo Centre, in Johannesburg, on Thursday – the United States has decided to reinstate Mauritania’s benefits.
This following a notice from US President Joe Biden of his intention to boot out Niger, Gabon, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda at the beginning of next year.
Mauritania was excluded from the programme by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in 2019 – over forced labour practices.
The US now says its government has shown a willingness to work diligently to make substantial and measurable progress on the issue of workers’ rights.
Thirty-five African countries qualify for the programme that gives them duty free access to some trade in the US market.
The eligibility criteria of AGOA is serious business, and it gives the US president authority to pick and choose which countries qualify to benefit from duty free trade with the US.
As four African countries are being shown the door, US Trade Secretary Kathrine Tai said unconstitutional changes of government in Gabon and Niger disqualify the two from receiving the benefits.
This while governments in the CAR and Uganda have been booted out over gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.
Tai is in South Africa for the forum.
The official programme will see different sectors, including labour and civil society across Africa and the US in
closed discussions – with the continent’s trade ministers also meeting and exploring the exhibitions on display.