In a recent announcement, US President Joe Biden announced his plans to expel Uganda, Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). This special US-Africa trade program, established in 2000, offers eligible sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the US for over 1,800 products. The decision to remove these nations from Agoa was attributed to concerns about their human rights records and progress toward democratic governance.
Why the Expulsion?
President Biden cited specific reasons for this action. Both Niger and Gabon, currently under military rule due to recent coups, were deemed ineligible for Agoa. The president explained that these countries had not made adequate progress toward establishing political pluralism and the rule of law.
Furthermore, the Central African Republic and Uganda were expelled from the program due to “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” committed by their governments. This move followed Uganda’s controversial anti-homosexuality law, which imposed severe penalties for engaging in certain same-sex acts, drawing global criticism.
This expulsion from Agoa is set to take effect at the beginning of next year. It is expected to have a significant impact on the economies of these nations, as Agoa has played a vital role in promoting exports, economic growth, and job creation in participating countries.
The US government’s actions don’t end with Agoa expulsion. Last week, the US State Department suspended most foreign aid to Gabon and indicated that assistance would only resume when Gabon’s transitional government establishes democratic rule. Similarly, in August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a pause in certain foreign assistance programs benefiting the government of Niger.
It’s worth noting that Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have previously faced Agoa expulsion after military coups in those countries. These actions serve as a reminder of the program’s commitment to upholding democratic principles and human rights.
President Biden’s decision to expel these four African nations from Agoa underscores the importance of human rights and democratic progress in maintaining eligibility for this trade program. The economic consequences for these countries are substantial, highlighting the significance of adhering to the program’s criteria. As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how these nations will respond to their expulsion from Agoa.