Speaking to media through Africa, top US representatives gave the US perspective on trade, Boko Haram, South Sudan and Burundi.
The US wants to see a diversification of products traded between African countries and the States, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs has said.
Answering questions from journalists throughout Africa via an online press conference on February 10, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said there are currently about 39 African countries signed up with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a United States Trade Act enacted in 2000 which significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, of which Ghana is one.
AGOA builds on existing US trade programmes by expanding the (duty-free) benefits previously available only under the country’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
However, Thomas-Greenfield said the States wants to see different products traded though it.
“We want to see there be a diversification of the products that are being sent under AGOA, and we’re working with countries to bring them into a better economic place so that they can benefit from the AGOA benefits. It’s a work in progress, but we are seeing some efforts improve.
“We’re seeing more countries take advantage. We’re seeing more products being brought into the marketplace that are benefiting from AGOA’s eligibility. And we hope that we continue to see those benefits increase.”
She was joined by USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Linda Etim, where the two also discussed attending the African Union Summit which they described as “intense”.
They attended a number of meetings on South Sudan, over its ongoing conflict between government and opposition forces.
Thomas-Greenfield said the meetings were “extraordinarily frustrating and extraordinarily disappointing” because there is a peace agreement, and the two sides have not taken the necessary steps to implement that peace agreement.
Thomas-Greenfield said “these leaders have to care about the impacts of this war on their people, and we can’t care more than they care.”
Etim added the leaders of South Sudan haven’t put the people’s lives before their political infighting, and the world did not have adequate resources to respond because of other crises like Syria.
“We have been sending very strong messages to the leaders in South Sudan to say that we are right now at a breaking point, and that for the sake of their people they need to come up with some sort of political dispensation to allow humanitarian assistance to flow through,” Etim said.
The US representatives also attended a number of meetings at the AU Sumit on Burundi, which has been hit by civil conflict since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to stand for a third term last April, since then violence erupted through the country, killing more than 400 people while at least 240,000 have fled the country.
Speaking on Boko Haram, Thomas-Greenfield said the US had been working closely with Nigeria and surrounding countries on helping them to address the terrorist threat that Boko Haram has posed.
“We see this as a multifaceted effort. It’s not just about dealing with the security issues, but it’s also dealing with root causes. So we have assisted all four governments on the security side, beefing up and providing training, providing intel support, providing coordination and advisory support".
The US is also working on addressing the humanitarian challenges that have resulted from the Boko Haram attacks.
'More than a million Nigerians have been forced from their homes. Close to 100,000 Nigerians are living outside of Nigeria as refugees. Thousands of families, ordinary people, have been impacted by Boko Haram. And these people have serious concerns that need to be addressed.”
The US is also looking at economic development in the regions affected by Boko Haram, encouraging businesses to invest in those areas, and also ensuring that those who have been victims of Boko Haram receive the assistance that they require to rebuild their lives.