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Namibia’s new AGOA strategy to increase tariff-free US exports

2021-05-11  Maihapa Ndjavera

Namibia’s new AGOA strategy to increase tariff-free US exports
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Namibia yesterday launched a utilisation strategy for the two-decades-old African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), with a specific objective to increase the country’s exports to the United States (US). This joint effort between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Namibia’s industrialisation and trade ministry is part of US efforts to expand mutually-beneficial trade with Namibia, enabling Namibia to export over 6 400 products tariff-free to the US market. 

The strategy recommends steps to address the policy, supply and market challenges faced by potential Namibian exporters. A body, composed of private and public sector representatives, will drive the implementation of this AGOA strategy. According to the US ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, Namibia, through the ministry of trade and other stakeholders, prioritised the numerous products to support diversification of exports from Namibia to the US. These products include meat and meat products, dates, specialty foods, leather handbags, handicrafts, accessories and cosmetics.

“The US government will continue to support Namibian firms with market entry and entry-enhancing services to meet the US market entry requirements and increase exports from the priority sectors,” said Johnson.

AGOA is a unilateral and non-reciprocal trade preference program that provides duty-free market access into the US for eligible products from eligible sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries. The Act has been in existence for two decades and has since inception been amended half a dozen times since its promulgation on 18 May 2000. The current AGOA cycle stretches from July 2015 to September 2025, which is the longest extension in the history of the trade preference program.

Some of the benefits Namibia will get from AGOA is duty free treatment for eligible products, tariff exception to increase competitiveness against
products from non-AGOA countries, availability of AGOA-related trade capacity building support from US agencies, potential for increased foreign direct investment (FDI) and export growth. 

It is envisaged that increased utilisation of AGOA will result in more local job opportunities, while Namibian companies that utilise AGOA will be exposed to the US market, where they can create sustainable strategic alliances with US firms. Through the application of this strategy, minister of trade Lucia Iipumbu hopes Namibia will be able to maximise AGOA’s trade potential in trade, investments and skills transfer. 

Iipumbu made these remarks at the launch of the utilisation strategy yesterday.

Although Namibia was initially part of AGOA at the onset of the programme but never had a strategy in place, Iipumbu stated that Namibia’s efforts to fast-track the crafting of the strategy was ignited in 2019 during an AGOA forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.  “It was also at this platform where we were informed of the possible extension of this very important framework. Now, with a strategy in place, we will unleash the full potential market the USA has to offer,” she stated.

Namibia’s total trade with the United States has stagnated in terms of growth over the past 10 years. In 2019, Namibia’s overall exports to the United States market were valued at N$1.97 billion, accounting for only 2.1% of Namibia’s exports to the rest of the world. The main export products for Namibia to the United States market are uranium ore, diamonds and artwork. According to Iipumbu, the strategy concludes with a proposed action plan, covering implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework as well as an institutional structure. 

She added the strategy hinges on a number of national policy documents, particularly the outward looking
Growth at Home Strategy (Namibia’s Execution Strategy for Industrialisation), which is the implementation strategy for the country’s industrial policy, providing the nuts and bolts of industrialisation and export value addition. - mndjavera@nepc.com.na


2021-05-11  Maihapa Ndjavera

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