The Ministry of Trade in collaboration with Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) has concluded a one day validation workshop at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex to prepare the ground for local products to be exported abroad.
Chief Executive Officer SLIEPA, Mr. Lexmond Koroma, said the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a United States of America Government trade preference scheme initiated in 2000 to give an opportunity to eligible African countries to export over 6,500 products to the US duty and quota free.
He noted that since the promulgation of AGOA, Sierra Leone has not benefited from the scheme in the first phase that ended in 2015 due to challenges of compliance to product eligibility criteria and poor value addition and adherence to rules of origin.
He maintained that SLIEPA is ready to work with their partners and very much determined to collaborate with other players to move the country forward.
Mr. Koroma disclosed that the Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the United Nations Commission for Africa (UNECA) have commenced the process of developing a National AGOA Response Strategy for Sierra Leone.
He recalled that the International Growth Centre (IGC) was engaged as a consultant to develop the strategy and SLIEPA by virtue of its position as the official and national trade promotion organization has served as an implementing agency for the project and coordinated the entire process which started with a national stakeholder’s consultative meeting last year.
He acknowledged the efforts of stakeholders, IGC, MTI, and SLIEPA that have resulted in a draft National AGOA Response strategy for Sierra Leone.
A representative from the Minister of Trade and Industry, Charles Thompson, noted that in the year 2000, the US Government enacted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to serve as a preferential trade agreement conferring duty and quota free access of sub-Saharan African countries to the United States market.
He maintained that access to this market was conditional and largely depends on the fulfillment of certain criteria such as maintenance of the rule of law, democracy, fights against terrorism, drugs control and avoidance of the use of child labour.
He said that Sierra Leone made an appeal to the United States Government for an extension of the offer, and fortunately, AGOA was extended to 2025.
He further said that the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) requested beneficiary countries to develop an AGOA Response Strategy in order to enhance our access to the U.S Market.
He maintained that the Ministry of Trade and Industry formed the AGOA Project steering committee to oversee the development of this strategy, adding that it is working with the international Growth Center and SLIEPA for the ministry to produce the said document.
Among the purpose of the workshop, he said is to ensure that a wider range of private sector knowledge and opinions are heard and integrated into the strategy, and to capture the feedback of the public sector to ensure that their role in the promotion of export and investment under AGOA is clearly articulated.
He assured that the ministry of Trade and Industry is committed towards the full implementation of an actionable strategy.
United Nations Economic Commissioner for Africa (UNECA), Mr. David Luke congratulated partners and stakeholders in their preparation for the report.
He said the report will ensure Sierra Leoneans fully utilize the opportunities provided by AGOA to export to the U.S market.
He assured that they will continue to work with the ministry and stakeholders to ensure that the recommendations of the report are implemented.