Optimising Africa’s transportation infrastructure in order to increase international trade was top of the agenda at the 12th United States-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA 2013) held last week at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa and to facilitate the region’s integration into the global economy.
Since the inception of AGOA, there has been a 300 % increase in total two-way trade between the United States and the African continent, and 2012 was proclaimed to have been the most successful year thus far.
With the current Act expiring in September 2015, this year’s Forum concluded that for the initiative to remain successful, Africa’s top priority is now to expand its trade infrastructure. Especially landlocked countries are currently unable to take full advantage of the opportunities that AGOA offers. Most of the roads connected to ports are congested, creating transportation bottlenecks not seen anywhere else in the world. For instance, it takes 24 days for a container to travel from Mombasa to Kigali and 20 days for a container to be cleared at the port of Dar es Salaam.
An integrated transportation network is therefore so crucial that according to some delegates Africa’s continued success depends almost entirely on it. A call to extend the Act for another 15 years has already been proposed by the African Union, and President Obama’s office has vowed to better communicate the enormous potential that this could mean for investors worldwide.