South Africa has welcomed the commitment by US President Barack Obama to support the continuation and enhancement of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Obama was speaking at the US-Africa Leaders Summit - the largest gathering of African heads of state and government organised by a US President - this week. During this, he signalled his determination to renew and improve AGOA as part of broader plans to strengthen trade with African nations.

South Africa's ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, welcomed the commitment to back a renewal of the scheme.

"On the investment side, the US is the biggest source of foreign investment to South Africa, so AGOA must continue, and we want to see the inclusion of South Africa in the programme," he told SAnews. "For South Africa, if we can leave here with a firm commitment that AGOA will continue and that South Africa will continue to be in it, that will great for us because that will mean we save US$9bn."

At present, of all the goods the US exports to the world, only about 1% goes to Sub-Saharan Africa.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Obama told members. "We have to do better - much better. I want Africans buying more American products. I want Americans buying more African products."

AGOA provides duty-free market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries by extending preferences on more than 4,600 products, including clothing and certain textile products.

One US company keen to reaffirm its commitment to Africa, is retail giant Wal-Mart. 

Speaking at the forum yesterday, CEO Doug McMillon said: "We’re investing in Sub-Saharan Africa for the long term, empowering African producers through hands-on training and using our global supply chain to connect them with our businesses around the world."

In a bid to further strengthen its commitment to empowering its supply chain in Africa, the retailer said it will make a $3m investment in three further farmer training programmes in Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya.