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Towards a renewed partnership between the United States & the African Union

The United States-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA) 2019 themed “AGOA and the future - Developing a new paradigm for US-Africa Trade” was held from 4th to 6th August 2019 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. C.J. Mahoney, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative underscored that the forum provides an opportunity to pursue new, forward-looking initiatives and a vision for the future of U.S.-African trade in his opening remarks.  He pointed out that the United States and the African Union will partner together to support the ongoing negotiation and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  The United States and the African Union share a mutual desire to pursue deeper trade and investment ties beyond the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is scheduled to expire in 2025, eventually leading to a continental trade partnership between the United States and Africa that supports regional integration.

The Mauritian delegation to the 18th AGOA Forum in Abidjan was led by H.E Ambassador S. Phokeer, accompanied by Mr. François Guibert, CEO of the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Mr. Vinay Guddye, Head of Africa Desk at EDB.

On the margins of the AGOA Forum, a business forum was also organized with the participation of around 300 delegates comprising senior government officials from the USA and 22 sub-Saharan African countries.

H.E Ambassador S. Phokeer who presides over the committee of African Ambassadors in Washington has been mandated to coordinate the submission of proposals and recommendations to the US authorities. The Ambassador reiterated his commitment to foster investment & trade relations between the US and Africa which aims at building a robust partnership that goes beyond AGOA’s unilateral trade preferences. 

It should be highlighted that the inputs gathered from the private sector is essential to enhance policymaking. To that end, The Confederation of Ivorian Enterprise (CGECIP) along with the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) from the US organized the 18th edition of the AGOA Forum Private Sector Forum at La Maison de L’Entreprise, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

In this context, Mr. François Guibert, CEO of EDB participated in the panel themed “Success Stories and Lessons Learned”. The panel was moderated by Mr. Anthony Carroll, Vice President, Manchester Trade and comprised the following panelists:

  • Segun Awolowo, Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council
  • Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Founder and CEO, Alaffia
  • Karen Bosman, Strategic Research and Public Affairs, Wesgro
  • François Guibert, CEO of the Economic Development Board

A key part of the discussions was centered around the importance of compliance to US standards in order to tap into the opportunities of the US market.

Mr. François Guibert underlined that American expertise, knowhow and technologies are being embraced to drive innovative solutions across Africa which are key to creating value addition within the continent.

He also emphasized that Mauritius was already a major exporter of Apparel to the EU and the US prior to AGOA and the diversification into other products and services comprised similar high quality standards as existed in the textile and hospitality industry thus enabling a successful diversification of product range from Mauritius into the US market.

Mr. Guibert also highlighted the high standards being applied in the professional services sector, particularly in Financial Services.

He reaffirmed that the Mauritius International Financial Services Centre (MIFC) offers a conducive, safe and trustworthy jurisdiction to set up regional offices for managing subsequent investments in assets and manufacturing capabilities across the continent.

Mr. Guibert also pointed out that Mauritius offers win-win solutions to the investor communities across the US, the EU and Asia as well as a safe and cost-effective platform, for the host country.

He further added that the Financial Jurisdiction is fast-growing in relevance and repute.  Mauritius is recognized by the OECD’s Global Forum as a “compliant” jurisdiction and is the first African country to have signed an Inter- Governmental Agreement with the USA to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The CEO of EDB concluded by inviting the US private sector to consider structuring their support services in Mauritius which is an ideal conduit to reach African countries.

Since the enactment of AGOA in 2000, Mauritius has managed to significantly tap into the US market and in 2018, exports to the US market stood at over USD 200 million with major exports such as apparel, seafood products, sugar, cut diamonds, spectacles and sunglasses and a mix of coffee, tea, mate, spices and other products.

On the other hand, Mauritius imports primarily Butanes (Liquified) from the US and spare parts for aircrafts. On the investment side, FDI from the USA to Mauritius in 2018 was only to the tune of MUR 58 million. However, the USA contributed to over 19 percent of Total Stock of Direct Investment through the MIFC amounting to roughly USD 64.2 billion in 2017.

Furthermore, several US-based Development Finance Institutions, Private Equity Funds and MNCs are using Mauritius to invest in Africa and Asia in view of the strategic position of Mauritius.