Workers at a shipping dock (© Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
The port of Mombasa in Kenya is a key entry and exit point for cargo from several African countries. (© Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Zohra Baraka’s company Mohazo in Kenya recently shipped 200,000 wooden hand-carved bowls and figurines. This is the biggest shipment by far for the 30-year-old home decor company and opens Baraka’s company to the largest single market in the world: the United States.

Among the biggest reasons you can now find Mohazo’s products in stores across the U.S. is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which Congress first enacted in 2000 and recently renewed through September 2025.

Producers in sub-Saharan African countries that qualify for AGOA can export to the U.S. market duty free.

President Trump’s administration has made free, fair and reciprocal trade a priority, and AGOA is a big part of that strategy. That law has benefited a wide range of business sectors in the U.S.-Africa trade relationship, including agriculture, apparel and fashion.

Taking advantage of AGOA requires research on the part of African businesses looking to export to the U.S, said Gregory Simpkins of the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The United States is the world’s largest and richest market,” said Simpkins, “but it’s actually a collection of markets.”

Hands picking coffee beans (© Robert Harding/Alamy)
Coffee beans like these from Ethiopia are among products shipped to the U.S. under AGOA. (© Robert Harding/Alamy)

Simpkins, who gives training workshops on AGOA throughout sub-Saharan Africa, advises prospective exporters from Africa to consider five important factors:


Is your country eligible?

Currently, there are 40 sub-Saharan African countries eligible for AGOA. Eligibility is based on the country’s efforts to improve human rights and the rule of law and to have reduced barriers to U.S. trade.


Is your product eligible?

Nearly all products exported from sub-Saharan countries to the U.S. are eligible. But research your product to be sure. A product might be ineligible, for example, if it uses too high a percentage of materials produced in a different country.


Do you know your U.S. market?

Simpkins advises having a business plan that takes into account such questions as where you will sell your product in the U.S. and what profit you can expect after you’ve paid your production and export costs. “If you don’t plan, your competitor will plan for you,” said Simpkins, “and your competitor wants you to fail.”


Do you know the regulations? 

Different regulations govern the export of different products to the United States. Foods, for example, are subject to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Exports to the U.S. that do not comply with those standards will not be allowed into the country. “They may get out of your port, but they won’t be accepted in the U.S. port,” said Simpkins, “in which case you will have wasted a colossal amount of money.”


Do you know the shipping requirements?

Exports to the U.S. will require a commercial invoice, certificate of origin and customs clearance. Depending on the product, there may be further requirements. For details on shipping regulations and requirements, download AGOA ABCs: How to participate in the American Market [PDF, 21.7 MB].


 

While understanding AGOA requirements can be complicated, companies like Mohazo and others that take the time and effort to do so reap a significant economic benefit. Consider Sseko Designs, Uganda’s largest exporter of shoes. “We’re so thankful for AGOA and really attribute Sseko being able to continue to grow and thrive to it,” said Liz Bohannon, who founded Sseko.Today the company has a line of sandals and fashion accessories sold around the world.