Oct 5, 2011, 2:19 PM
Minister Jobe made this remark at the SunSwing Beach Resort in Kololi, where a two-day AGOA Awareness-raising workshop commenced yesterday.
The occasion, which brought together business executives and private sector stakeholders in The Gambia, was organised by the Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE), Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), American Chamber of Commerce, and the US Embassy in Banjul.
“As a comprehensive international trade development initiative for sub-Saharan African countries, AGOA strongly complements The Gambia’s strategic drive towards export competitiveness and performance particularly in the US Markets,” Minister Jobe said.
He added that the underlying motive of international trade development through AGOA, to a large extent, is to augment foreign exchange earnings from exports and improve livelihoods of the general citizenry of beneficiary countries by way of employment creation and increased income for locals through exports into the US thus impacting on poverty reduction.
Trade opportunities under AGOA are enormous, but the challenge remains on the ability of local businesses to access and fully benefit from AGOA, the minister noted.
While The Gambia has been an eligible member of AGOA since 31December 2002, the country has not really been able to fully utilize the trade and export opportunities inherent in AGOA.
“Market access conditions, means of access under AGOA and the support requirement of businesses in beneficiary countries like The Gambia are fully recognized. Despite the available support measures, the utilization rate of preferences under the scheme is still minimal in the case of The Gambia,” Minister Jobe noted.
The AGOA resource centre is housed at GIEPA and despite publicity campaigns to raise awareness about the centre providing information and guidance on AGOA, it continues to attract a low rate of enquiries.
“The task, therefore, to realize the broad objectives set under AGOA and the attached benefits are in no small measure challenging,” the Trade minister said.
“This calls for enormous complementary endeavours not only by the government but also by local operators and strategic partners such as the West Africa Trade Hub to help unlock the businesses potentials to harness the valuable benefits under AGOA.”
He added: “I wish to state that the successful realization of AGOA for The Gambia has since and will continue to be supported by a conducive policy and strategic environment. The nexus between AGOA and The Gambia’s policy and strategic objectives have been established through a number of trade development policy and strategic documents. For instance, the National Export Strategy (NES) framework acknowledges the aspirations of AGOA.
Having said this and on acknowledgment of the technical deficiencies of local exporters and potential exporters, he stated, the urgent need for technology both in terms of processing, packaging and quality infrastructure “are recognizedand highlightedin our National Strategies.”
In her welcome address, the Chief Executive Officer of GIEPA, Fatou M. Jallow, said the AGOA Awareness-raising workshop is a strategic initiative by GIEPA in partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce supported by the West Africa Trade Hub and the US Embassy.
“The underpinning objective is to draw the desired maximum impact from products and services exports into the US Market through optimal utilization of the incentives under AGOA,” she said.
The development aspirations of AGOA in a wider strategic perspective, she noted, are geared towards addressing market access challenges for increasedincome for beneficiary countries, foreign exchange earnings, agreed action plan either directly or indirectly through dialogue and advocacy.
The US Embassy charge d’affaires, David Greathouse, in his remarks said AGOA is the centerpiece of America’s economic engagement in Africa.
“The United States continues to demonstrate worldwide leadership in expanding trade with Africa through the AGOA, a progressive US trade and investment policy towards sub-Saharan Africa that is reducing barriers to trade, increasing exports, creating jobs, and expanding opportunity for Africans to build better lives,” he said.
He added that AGOA provides trade preferences to “countries that are making progress in economic, legal and human rights reforms.”