African Growth and Opportunity Act creates jobs, benefits entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs promote goods during a trade fair hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Gabon. (State Dept.)

How much can a U.S. law help sub-Saharan African countries build their economies and develop open markets?

Just ask Witney Schneidman, the Brookings Institution’s African affairs specialist, about the effects of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

“What we’ve found is that AGOA’s responsible for the creation of about 350,000 direct jobs for Africa and another million or so indirect jobs,” Schneidman said.

Schneidman recently visited Ethiopia, where he met young entrepreneurs, government officials and major business leaders interested in learning more about AGOA.

“Ethiopia currently is benefitting in the apparel, footwear and horticulture areas” under AGOA, Schneidman said.

Witney Schneidman (right) visits Ethiopia as part of AGOA promotion efforts. (State Dept.)

Approved by Congress in 2000, AGOA provides trade preferences for most goods exported to the U.S. from sub-Saharan African countries. Light manufacturing exports to the U.S., such as apparel and textiles, thrive under AGOA.

The U.S. Embassy in Gabon organized a series of events to engage local entrepreneurs on AGOA, culminating in a trade fair for women-owned businesses on March 8.

As part of the series, Food and Drug Administration cosmetics division director Nakissa Sadrieh discussed requirements for cosmetics and food products imported to U.S. markets.

“I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the audience, and the fact that the entrepreneurs really were trying to understand what the U.S. requirements were, and they were trying to understand how to ‘do the right thing,’” Sadrieh said.

The United States encourages entrepreneurship in Africa and around the world. President Obama plans to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya in July.