By Fatou B. Cham
The United States ambassador to The Gambia, Patricia Alsup, said that The Gambia lost its African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility in 2015 due to human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law.
Ambassador Alsup made these remarks on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of a two days awareness raising workshop held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel organised by The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) in partnership with the West African Trade Hub and African Partners Network.
The objective of the workshop is taking into account the low utilization rate of the AGOA by Gambian entrepreneurs impacting on low export entry rates into the U.S. market, which will seek to heighten awareness of benefits under AGOA.
The workshop also served as a platform for sharing best practices for building sustainable business oriented towards exporting into the U.S. market.
“Three years later, the decision to reinstate The Gambia’s AGOA eligibility is recognition of all the progress made by The Gambia under leadership of President Adama Barrow to strengthen the rule of law, improve human rights and support political pluralism and democracy,” she said.
Ambassador Alsup also noted that this time around, the country must take advantage of exporting the Gambian products that can enter the U.S. duty free under AGOA, adding that The Gambia should be able to export nuts, fruits and juices, but the products need to be properly developed, branded and packaged, she added.
In his welcoming remarks, Momodou Drammeh, officer in charge of GIEPA said that AGOA has been in The Gambia for 10 years but it has not been a very fruitful 10 years because there is very little they could account for to testify that is what they have achieved during those years when it comes to exporting to the U.S.
“Most of the country’s exporters are suitcase exporters and that is not what the country is looking for when it comes to export promotion and development,” he said.
Sheikh Tijan Bah from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Regional Integration said that the occasion re-affirms not only the re-entry of The Gambia into AGOA but importantly, the mutual belief and commitment to the longstanding strategic efforts of the government of the United States of America.
“The principles of good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law as the foundations on which AGOA stands shall continue to be hallmarks of the government of The Gambia,” he said.
He said that the challenge now remains the building of enterprises capacity to take full advantage of the benefits of AGOA, adding that the conditions attached to market access, means of access under AGOA obtaining visa’s and the support requirement of business in The Gambia must be addressed.