During the US-Africa Business Forum, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Cooperation for Trade and Investment between the US and the African Continental Free Trade Area with Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Wamkele Men.

“The future is Africa – for the United States and the global economy,” Tai said in a statement following the Forum.

“In terms of size and population, Africa’s significance is undeniable. Its young population is set to double by 2050 to 2.5 billion people, and the continent is becoming an increasingly important economic partner to the United States. Africa continues to increase its competitiveness and integration into global supply chains through improved national-level business climates.  It’s also undergoing rapid digitisation and urbanisation and is brimming with entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.”

Tai said the AfCFTA is “critical” to the efforts of “recasting traditional US policy priorities such as democracy and governance; peace and security; and sustainable trade and investment – as avenues to strengthen US-African cooperation”.

“In short, the Biden-Harris Administration recognises that it is impossible to meet today’s defining challenges on trade without African contributions and leadership, and our support of the AfCFTA is part and parcel of this. This MOU is the product of a year of hard work and negotiations to memorialise this importance with which we regard the AfCFTA. It stems from a mutual desire to develop a lasting partnership between the United States Government and the AfCFTA Secretariat.”

Speaking at the Forum, President Biden, said the US is committed to providing “the best possible environment for sustained commercial engagement between Africa companies and American companies”.

The Free Trade Area, he said, will represent one of the largest in the world, comprising 1.3bn people, and a continent-wide market totalling US$3.4 trillion.

Tai added that the MoU will create a platform for a regular dialogue with the AfCFTA Secretariat and other stakeholders to address matters of mutual interest about the negotiation and implementation of the AfCFTA.

According to law firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, topics for discussion may include:

  • Advancing industrial and regional value chain development
  • Closer partnership between African and US companies in sectors such as infrastructure, digital trade, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automobiles, transportation systems, and logistics services
  • Encouraging intra-African trade to meet the shared goals of the AfCFTA and AGOA
  • Promoting trade facilitation
  • Promoting the overall implementation of the AfCFTA, including its protocols on trade in goods and services, women and youth in trade, intellectual property, and digital trade
  • Facilitating private sector and civil society engagement to stimulate trade and investment and cooperation

Discussions at the Forum, however, made no mention of the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has been the foundation of the bilateral trade relationship since 2000 but is currently scheduled to expire in 2025.

Last week, organisations from the apparel industry in the US, along with the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), called for long-term renewal of AGOA.

The continued call to action follows a June 2022 testimony before the International Trade Commission and comments to the US Trade Representative, as well as decades of support for strategic trade partnerships in the region.