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An Opportunity to Deepen Trade and Investment between the United States and Malawi
Op-Ed by U.S. Ambassador David Young
November 2, 2023

“The United States is all in on Africa,” President Biden affirmed during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last December.

The future is Africa. One example is its youthful population: The median age on the continent is nineteen. By 2050, one in four people in the world will be in Africa. The United States wants them to be healthy and wealthy. What happens in Africa will affect the rest of the globe – and we want to work together to ensure it is bright, safe, and prosperous.

Our stories have always been intertwined. Today we know that our success—the success of all our people, on both sides of the Atlantic—is inextricably linked. Our African partners are central to the United States’ approach to driving trade that is accessible, fair, competitive, and resilient.  We need to partner together to protect the dignity of all workers and sustainability of our planet — and pursue a race to the top amongst institutions and enterprises.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, is a key pillar to realizing this vision for shared prosperity. Since it was signed over two decades ago, AGOA has made a tremendous difference for millions of Africans. By providing duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 6,800 different products, the legislation has helped create jobs and new economic opportunities, including for women and youth. If you manage a business in Malawi, I encourage you to see how you might use AGOA to increase your sales, train more employees, and better your community.

AGOA is an example of how we can use trade as a force for good.  To maintain eligibility, countries must uphold several values that are core to free and fair societies—rule of law, respect for human rights, combatting corruption, and protecting workers’ rights.

In a nutshell, AGOA is intended to be a transformational tool to bolster inclusive prosperity across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Malawi ranks 15 out of 35 countries in Africa that have most utilized the AGOA trade window over the past 23 years. Since AGOA’s inception in 2000, Malawi has exported goods worth $1.55 billion (about K1.68 trillion) to the United States, with $1.15 billion (about K1.24 trillion) qualifying for AGOA preferences. Malawi’s exports to the United States through AGOA have increased by 6.5 percent from $15.9 million (about K17.23 billion) through June 2022 to $16.94 million (about K18.56 billion) as of June 2023. Malawi’s exports to the United States comprise mostly agricultural products such as tobacco, sugar, tea, and nuts. To demonstrate our commitment to AGOA in Malawi, we are implementing through USAID the Growth Poles and the African Trade and Investment projects to equip businesses with skills that will help them explore market opportunities in the United States.

This is why the Biden-Harris Administration fully supports reauthorizing AGOA, as the benefits of the legislation are set to expire in 2025. The U.S. Congress holds the pen on reauthorization, and we are committed to working closely with Congress throughout the process to ensure this legislation is impactful and relevant.

Policy tools like AGOA are meant to be used, tested, and sharpened over time — which is the driving purpose of the AGOA Forum being held this week (November 2-4) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Every year, the U.S. Trade Representative and trade ministers from every country that participates in AGOA come together to take stock of their work together and find opportunities to do more. This convening is an opportunity to gauge progress to date and perhaps more importantly, discuss if we can improve AGOA to better serve more Africans and Americans. Not only that, the Forum is a catalyst to convene a broader community. Government officials, civil society and labor leaders, and private sector investors all come together from across the Continent and the United States with a shared goal of using trade to create better opportunities.

This is a valuable moment in Malawi’s economic engagement with the United States, and I look forward to a robust, forward-looking conversation — at the AGOA Forum and beyond.