By John Ikani
US President Joe Biden has announced his intention to exclude Uganda, Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic from a special US-Africa trade initiative.
The countries, he stated, have either committed “serious” human rights violations or failed to advance toward democratic governance.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), established in 2000, offers duty-free access to the US for over 1,800 products from eligible sub-Saharan African nations.
Niger and Gabon, both under military rule due to recent coups, are deemed ineligible for Agoa because of their insufficient commitment to political pluralism and the rule of law.
The Central African Republic and Uganda are being removed due to their governments’ severe violations of internationally recognized human rights.
Earlier this year, Uganda faced potential Agoa removal and sanctions after passing a controversial anti-homosexuality law that drew global condemnation.
Despite extensive dialogues, these four countries have not adequately addressed US concerns regarding Agoa eligibility criteria.
The expulsion is set to begin at the start of the next year, significantly impacting their economies. Agoa has been a key driver of exports, economic growth, and job creation in participating nations.
The possible exclusion of Niger and Gabon from Agoa is part of broader US actions against these junta-led countries.
The US State Department recently suspended most foreign aid to Gabon, with aid resuming only upon the establishment of democratic rule.
Similarly, Niger faced a pause in specific foreign assistance programs, as announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in August.
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have previously faced Agoa expulsion following military coups in those nations.