President of the US African Development Foundation and Alliance for Artisan Enterprise Advisory Board Member, Shari Berenbach, has released a statement calling on President Obama to make AGOA more supportive of artisans. Please read her call to action below.
Engaging Young African Leaders Who Are Africa’s Future
As part of the Washington Fellowship program, yesterday, President Obama joined 500 Young African Leaders in a town hall meeting to discuss leadership, entrepreneurship, youth empowerment, and trade issues. The Washington Fellowship is the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The program identifies and supports young African leaders as they work to develop robust economies, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent.
During his Town Hall, President Obama discussed the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) which is set to expire in 2015. This law, originally passed in 2001, was designed to spur economic growth in Africa through increased trade with the US. AGOA, by any standard has a mixed track record of success. President Obama indicated his support for the renewal of AGOA authorization, but he acknowledged that even with reduced or no tariff barriers, many countries ‘still have problems in terms of getting their goods to market.’ He indicated a number of challenges for AGOA, from infrastructure to financing.
As President and CEO of the US African Development Foundation, I welcome President Obama’s and Congressional support for the next phase of AGOA, and I agree that changes must be made for the US and Africa to realize the full potential of AGOA. Now is the moment to discuss, how modifications to AGOA can facilitate bi-lateral trade with Africa, home to 6 of the world’s most rapidly growing economies.
AGOA should be adjusted make it more supportive of Artisan producers and facilitate their access to US consumers. Globally, the artisan production is a $34 Billion dollar industry, and collectively that is the second largest employer in developing countries. The majority of artisans are women and small producers, supporting them would be an important building block for developing economies. With improved access to the US market – a flourishing artisan sector could transform the economic prospects of households and communities across Africa.
There is much that can be done, from opening AGOA provisions to hand made jewelry, leather goods or woodworks, (today it is mostly focused on textiles), to increased training and support to enable local artisans to more easily access US retailers, from Macy’s and West Elm to Walmart.
Like the President says, let’s adopt a new AGOA that helps African’s to ‘get their goods to market’.
President & CEO
US African Development Foundation