Saturday, February 21, 2009

Uganda: Fears that credit crisis threatens AGOA exports

2009-02-17 | Source: New Vision (Uganda)

Uganda's tariff and quota-free exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) may be suspended due to massive job losses by American workers, an American scholar has predicted.

Prof. Nelson Kasfir from Dartmouth College told a public lecture at Hotel Africana in Kampala that president Barack Obama was likely to encourage job creation in the US by suspending AGOA imports.

“A 600,000 monthly job loss in the US is big. The alternative is likely to be reverting such jobs under AGOA to American citizens,” Kasfir said.

This would mean, Kasfir said, that jobs currently created offshore to produce such exports are created in the US to benefit its citizens.

Uganda is among the 40 African countries exporting products to the US under AGOA, which was enacted under president George Bush’s administration. Textiles, crafts and other produce are exported to the US under the initiative.

The public lecture under the theme “Yes We Can, But Will He?: Obama, America and Africa,” was organised by the US embassy.

But Lisa M. Heilbronn, the public affairs officer at the embassy, said Kasfir’s observations were his personal opinion, not the US government’s.

Also, observers noted that the US was trying to put into perspective a realistic expectation in Africa from Obama’s administration.

Kasfir said the US policy towards Africa may not change dramatically, although he anticipated Obama may enable Uganda access the $8b from the Millennium Development Fund for infrastructural development ahead of the 2011 general elections.

Uganda failed for the last eight years to qualify for the grant due to corruption.

“In the 2008 annual AGOA report to Congress, AGOA continued to have a positive impact on US trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa,” he added.

The US trade representative, Susan Schwab, said AGOA had helped increase two-way US-African trade, promoted greater diversification of exports from AGOA countries and reinforced African economic reforms.