Remarks at Opening Reception of the 9th Annual AGOA Forum

Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs 
Washington, DC
August 2, 2010

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Doug, for that kind introduction. To all of you who have traveled so far to be here today, let me say-- welcome, bienvenue, karibu, and marhaban. As you have already heard from many others today, we are delighted to have you in the nation’s capital and –in a few days—the nation’s heartland for our 9th Annual AGOA Forum.

Our goal at the Department is to forge the economic partnerships with each of your countries that lead to peace and prosperity. Our strategy builds upon the foundation we laid 10 years ago with AGOA by promoting trade, business, and investment opportunities that sustain economic development in Africa. And as many of you can attest, our efforts have borne fruit.

AGOA has provided greater access for Africa's goods in the U.S. market than ever before. Over the last decade, imports from Africa have grown steadily and last year (2009) they stood at $33.7 billion. We're seeing more of your clothes in our malls, more of your fruit on our kitchen tables, and more of your jewelry under our Christmas trees. Let me cite just a few other examples:

  • Lesotho, which had virtually no manufacturing before AGOA, is the leading African apparel exporter to the U.S.
  • Kenya has emerged as one of the world’s top exporters of cut flowers to the United States.
  • Ethiopia is now the number one exporter of millet to the U.S.

We also know that the rate of return on foreign direct investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing nation, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. We can expect that more companies from the U.S. and around the world will be looking to invest in your countries, your businesses, and your people.

As I’m sure you’ll hear from the Secretary tomorrow, the future of Africa is bright and full of promise, but unlocking Africa's economic potential will still require overcoming some hurdles. AGOA, after all, has its limits. It can't generate the political will for good governance, fight corruption at the border, or build roads to help get your farmers’ goods to market. Nor can it lower trade barriers between you and your neighbors. These things can only come from your leadership.

We also know that no nation can power its economic growth without empowering its women. Trying to do so is like competing in an increasingly competitive world with one arm tied behind your back. I’ve met a number of the 35 African women business-leaders here for the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, and they remind me that in Africa—and everywhere—women hold up half the sky. If they are in the audience now, I want to take a moment to acknowledge these dynamic and accomplished women.

But you should also know that the United States stands ready to help Africa realize its true promise. We’re exploring ways to improve our economic engagement with your countries—to better integrate trade and development policy. We’re working to facilitate public-private partnerships that will draw American businesses into developing energy, transport, and water infrastructure that will sustain Africa’s growth. We’re also creating opportunities for African business and American business to network—particularly in the area of agribusiness—to find funding, share ideas, and create new value-added ventures for African and American consumers.

That is the main reason we’re taking the Forum on the road to Kansas City—one of largest hubs for agribusiness in the United States. We know that agriculture comprises one of the largest industries in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet it accounts for less than five percent of our trade under AGOA. We can do better. And in the exhibit halls and networking areas in Kansas City, we can plant the seeds that will grow into a more diverse and more balanced trade agenda.

Economic growth in Africa is our common agenda and we can make great strides in pursuing the goals we share. To quote an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” Together with each of your nations, we can go very far in creating the opportunity, stability and prosperity for the people of Africa and the United States.