Trade Africa

  • The first-ever Trade Africa Annual Report is now live. See our progress over the past year.

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Trade Africa is a partnership between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa to increase internal and regional trade within Africa, and expand trade and economic ties among Africa, the United States, and other global markets.  American support for the development of Africa’s economic growth is a strategic decision. For both the U.S. and Africa, trade generates new export markets for goods and services, allows for new job opportunities for unemployed and disaffected youth, and improves the overall business environment, making conditions more appealing for private investment.

Over more than a decade, Africa has taken advantage of the benefits of a duty-free market under AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has resulted in increased market opportunities and more than doubled exports from the continent. 

In its initial phase, Trade Africa focused on the Partner States of the East African Community (EAC) – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda; aiming to double intra-regional trade in the EAC, increase EAC exports to the United States by 40 percent, reduce by 15 percent the average time needed to import or export a container from the ports of Mombasa or Dar es Salaam to the land-locked interior, and decrease by 30 percent the average time a truck takes to transit selected borders.

The United States is currently working to expand the Trade Africa Initiative to involve new partners, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zambia to identify activities that will improve compliance with WTO rules on trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical barriers to trade; foster an improved business climate; and, address capacity issues that have constrained trade. The U.S. Government is also working to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to improve regional trade.

To date, Trade Africa has made dramatic progress—including enhanced private sector engagement between the East African Community and the U.S. and the expansion of the East Africa Trade Hub to become a Trade and Investment Hub, facilitating investment and access to technology and expertise in priority development sectors.  Progress can also be seen in the exports the region is generating—$2 billion in 2014 alone.   From 2013-2014, there was a 24% increase in exports of goods from the EAC to the U.S.

In February, 2015, the U.S. and ministers from the East African Community (EAC) signed a new multifaceted Cooperation Agreement to focus proactively on promoting progress towards three key trade facilitation objectives:

1) Implement the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement by working to reduce red tape and unnecessary formalities at border crossings.  This in turn will streamline border transit processes and further enhance the EAC’s ongoing USAID-supported efforts to reduce average container transit times (which have already fallen from 21 to six days);

2) Enhance Food Safety, Plant and Animal Health by engaging U.S. technological expertise to help EAC partners meet international safety and quality standards related to food safety and animal and plant health standards. By fully implementing the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, member countries of the EAC can increase food security and increase opportunities to export regional food products; and

3) Build capacity in the region to meet Global Trade Standards. Trade standards, regulations, testing and certification are part of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.  The U.S. will work closely with East African officials to provide targeted training in this area, and to ensure that harmonized international standards are fully adopted within each country. In addition, Trade Africa will continue its efforts to strengthen the trade partnership with the EAC through the following actions:

Regional transit and horticulture in Africa

Increase U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment

Trade Africa helps to mobilize resources to support increased U.S.-EAC trade and investment, building upon the Trade and Investment Partnership announced in June 2012. Activities have included:

  • Working towards a U.S.-EAC Investment Treaty to promote a more attractive regional investment environment;
  • Bringing the private sector together with policy makers at the inaugural U.S.–EAC Commercial Dialogue meeting in February 2015 to increase opportunities for trade and investment;
  • Providing information, advisory services, risk mitigation and financing through the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub to build linkages between U.S. and East African investors and exporters; and
  • Advancing the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign to encourage U.S. businesses to take maximum advantage of growing trade and investment opportunities in Africa, including through trade missions, reverse trade missions, trade shows, and business-to-business matchmaking in key sectors.  

Support EAC Regional Integration

The United States supports the EAC’s efforts to advance regional integration, through bilateral and regional trade facilitation and a partnership with TradeMark East Africa that specifically focuses on:

  • Reducing barriers at border points, including by moving to joint border crossings and implementing customs modernization programs, using innovative technologies that allow customs services to communicate with each other;
  • Supporting the transition to a single EAC customs and revenue sharing authority; and
  • Addressing barriers to transit that constrain the region’s competitiveness, including by reducing the number of roadblocks and the amount of time spent and fees paid to move products from ports to neighboring borders.
Trade Africa Almeda Textiles Ethiopia

Increase EAC Trade Competitiveness

The United States will also form public-private partnerships with East African and U.S. industries and trade associations to stimulate greater trade in goods under the African Growth and Opportunity Act and to:

  • Build the capacity of private sector associations in Africa to provide sustainable business services and promote investment in key growth sectors in Africa, including agriculture, health, clean energy, environment and trade-related infrastructure;
  • Formalize partnerships between American and African associations to increase trade through collaboration on trade shows and business-to-business matchmaking; and
  • Work with governments and national export associations to develop export strategies and establish export resource centers across the EAC to provide sustainable services for firms looking to export under AGOA.

Last updated: February 23, 2017

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