Since the African Growth an Opportunity Act (AGOA) was launched by United States Government 17-years ago to promote industrialization, Sierra Leonean based companies are yet to export their produce to the US market due lack of proper documentation and certification.
However, the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA) has engaged private sector executives on the Africa Growth Act (AGOA) documentation and certification of local products. The Chamber of Commerce held a training session, funded by USAID, for businesses.
President of Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce of Commerce Industry and Agriculture, Christopher John Foster, said the private sector is losing out from the AGOA trade facilities and benefits.
The United States Embassy in Sierra Leone, Economic and Commercial Assistant, Raymond Kamara, said, “The private sector needs to upgrade their products with increased productivity, value addition, and internationally accepted packaging standards. AGOA eligible countries must have advanced good governance, good labour standards and Sierra Leone must improve the fight against corruption and customs administration.”
In 2013, Sierra Leone was granted duty free waivers to sell local products to the US but most Sierra Leoneans in the private sector did not participate. Kamara encouraged the private sector to make good use of the opportunities offered by AGOA so as to help diversify the Sierra Leone economy.
Country Coordinator, USAID, Khadija Mojidi, said, “Sierra Leone had not been able to take advantage of the benefits of AGOA so as swift intervention USAID has opened a new window to train small and medium-sized enterprises across the country on scaling up agriculture across the country.”
AGOA Specialist West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Dr. Abou Liana, who facilitated the training, said the AGOA trade facility is expected to end in 2025 and encouraged Sierra Leonean private sector to brace-up for the preferential trade agreement offered by the US Government.
He said South Africa, Lesotho, Ghana, Mali and others are benefiting greatly from AGOA by creating jobs, empowering women and also stimulating economic growth in their respective countries.
He said some African countries export products to the US markets amounting to a trade volume of over $4billion USD.
He said, “Textiles are the most common products exported from Africa to the US. The AGOA objective is to promote industrialization and value addition of African products.”
Eva Roberts whose business idea won the Business Bomba prize in 2012 said she has been producing moringa tea and powder but has not been able to sell to the US markets. She said currently she exports her products to Liberia with plans to extend to Guinea but it usually done informally. She said she would like to export her products to the US but had not yet met the criteria.
A representative of the Lion Agriculture Company said the company grows harvest process and package rice and intends to add value with improved packaging for exports to the US.
Ayodele Waki Williams the Focal Person for AGOA Sierra Leone added, “The high cost of doing business and the poor infrastructure in the area of electricity, water and roads is hampering the growth of the private sector in Sierra Leone.”