Monrovia — The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Liberia Chambers of Commerce, have commenced a two-day sensitization workshop for economic operators on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Food Safety Act.
The workshop aims to create awareness among the Liberian private sector about the benefits and opportunities provided by AGOA and the Food Safety Act. It also focuses on the eligibility criteria, the product categories covered under AGOA, and how businesses can take advantage of this preferential trade agreement.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a U.S. unilateral trade preference program that allows eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa to export up to 6,900 products to the United States duty-free, thereby increasing trade and investments between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.
Participants received comprehensive training on AGOA, a legislation that provides eligible African countries with duty-free access to the US market for various products. Addressing the opening session, Natty B. Davis, the First Vice President of the Liberia Chambers of Commerce, stated that the workshop aimed to integrate the benefits that should accrue to Liberia and Liberian businesses with respect to AGOA.
Davis emphasized that AGOA allows eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa to export certain goods to the United States duty-free or with reduced tariffs. He highlighted that while AGOA is a laudable initiative, for it to be beneficial to both parties–the United States and Liberia, especially businesses operating in Liberia–policymakers need to develop a policy response to support enterprises and business development. He stressed the importance of trade facilitation, market access, export promotion, market information, financial support and incentives, capacity building, and technical assistance as critical areas that require intervention.
Davis stated, “Small businesses, medium businesses, and whole sector businesses need a variety of financial products to facilitate their development and growth, and the current market for financial services is short-term and focused on trade, rather than addressing other aspects that support business growth and development.”
er emphasized that technical assistance is crucial to supporting businesses that aim to access and utilize the opportunities under AGOA. Davis mentioned that LCC could play a vital role in ensuring businesses utilize AGOA and the African Continental Trade Agreement (AfCTA) by providing information, resources, and networking opportunities.
In his remarks, Saa Saamoi, Deputy Commissioner at the Liberia Revenue Authority, mentioned that the discussion about free trade and economic integration is crucial for Liberia’s business climate. He emphasized the importance of economic integration as a necessary requirement for Liberia, given the need to move away from dependency on commodity exports and tap into larger markets.
Saamoi stated, “We, as a small country, can no longer be isolated. We have to work with the multilateral to sustain the continent’s assistance, compete, and take advantage of the larger market.”
The workshop serves as a significant platform to promote AGOA’s benefits, educate businesses, and encourage economic integration in Liberia.
According to him, the Chambers of Commerce is able to tap into the market potential, it creates millions of dollars for the private sector, which encourages local businesses to take advantage of the economic diversification.
Also speaking, Dr. Gbemenou Joselin Benoit Gnonlonfin, Senior Sanitary and Phytosanitary Lead for ECOWAS urged the participants to work together and utilize AGOA free trade.
He also warned them to desist from producing poorly made commodity food for the locals. Gnonlonfin said, “You should produce safe food for both local and foreign markets because it would qualify you for the AGOA trade process.”
At the same time, the participants acknowledge the LCC, ECOWAS, and USAID for organizing such an important workshop that intends to connect to a bigger market under AGOA. Zayzay F. Sillah, another participant, called on the government to have a focus person for AGOA at various ministries and agencies responsible for trade and commerce in the country.
The participant further described the workshop as an eye-opener for them as people and as a country and vowed to do more under the trade agreement. The meeting brought together participants from the Private and Public sectors.