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AGOA: The Unquestionably "Magnificent" Gift to Africa from the U.S.

posted onOctober 31, 2023
Olara L Lamara

By Olara L Lamara
It has been announced that President Joe Biden seeks to remove Uganda from the list of beneficiary countries of the America Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). In a letter addressed to both the Speaker Of the House and President Of the Senate, President Biden writes: “I am taking this step because I have determined that the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda do not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the AGOA.” President Biden then goes on to give his reason for booting Uganda as “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Human rights?! 

Of course, AGOA - approved by the United States Congress on 18th May 2000 - had the stated purpose of assisting select Sub-Saharan African countries to export up to 1,800 products to the United States tariff-free.

This enchanting act promised to bestow economic wonders upon the African continent by boosting trade and investment relations with the United States. With its gleaming exterior, AGOA looked like the Holy Grail of benevolence. 

Doubtless, the reader is aware that for nearly 500 years, Europe’s great powers; starting with the Portuguese arrival on West Africa’s Coast in 1480; plundered Africa’s resources and exploited the best labour in an abhorrent practice of Slave Trade. The consequences were not particularly rosy: Africa ended up politically, economically, and socially ravaged.

Indeed, from its inception, Uganda has sought to take advantage of AGOA. Just last year, Uganda exported goods worth USD 174m to the US. By comparison, just last year, the United Nations COMTRADE database shows that European Union imports of Ugandan products, excluding firearms, were USD 819.63m.

To the United Arab Emirates, Uganda’s exports were USD 2bn. Other notable export destinations were Kenya accounting for USD 292m and Tanzania accounting for USD 105m. 

By no means then, like with any of our many other partners, Uganda’s trade with the United States through the AGOA initiative, is not one that we are interested in discarding.

Indeed, I put it to you that President Biden’s given excuse of “gross violation of internationally recognized human rights” is nothing but an unfortunate exposition of what International Human rights are. Specifically, President Biden is using our recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Act as his base for booting Uganda from AGOA.

Specifically as pointed out by President Museveni,” the homosexuals in the United States are interfering with our export of textiles.” This is unfortunate because even in the US, there are many dissenting voices on issues of what in Swahili we call “shoga”!! 

Whatever slights might be contained within the Anti-Homosexuality Act should and will be addressed by our Courts Of Law.
Mr. Biden’s actions only serve to portray the United States as a bully. They are similar to those actions that past colonial masters took in their plunder of our African economies. 

His actions reduce AGOA to a fairy godmother of sorts beckoning African nations to hitch their wagons of diverse cultures and economic resources to the United States. His actions might be construed to mean that access to the U.S. market is akin to a hapless protagonist in a cheesy romance novel. 

In an awe-inspiring feat of trade wizardry, the U.S. exports high-value, finished products to Africa and, in return, imports the lower-value raw materials and commodities. This exquisite trade imbalance is almost like a curated art piece, meticulously mirroring the colonial past when Africa was the designated raw materials provider for the world.

AGOA then introduces a dehumanizing annual eligibility review process, where African nations get to experience what it's like to be an actor in a puppet show. The United States, with its benevolent wisdom, uses this review to nudge African nations toward policies and objectives that align perfectly with its interests, all the while waving the flag of human rights as a shining beacon.

AGOA led the exploitation of African resources and cheap labour, from its inception. Who cares if it perpetuates the cycle of exporting raw materials for the benefit of U.S. corporations, rather than investing in local economic development? It's just business!


Of Course, It's Perfect! As we near the end of our enchanted illusion and deceitful journey, it's only fitting to ponder whether AGOA can truly address Africa's deep-rooted economic issues or ensure equitable growth. The answer is obvious: why bother questioning perfection?

We must know and believe that Africa has a bright future, and it doesn't need foreign assistance to achieve it. This is our destiny, whose vision we must shape, and own. It's about time Africa looked inwards for the golden age of prosperity, because, after all, what's more comforting than trusting the brilliance of purebred African minds to lead the way?

So, there you have it, folks – AGOA, the enigmatic gift from the U.S. to Africa, wrapped in layers of intrigue, sarcasm, and, well, more sarcasm. Because sometimes, the best way to see the truth is through the lens of the absurd.

The writer is a Ugandan national with a Pan-African perspective. olara.lamara@gmail.com

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