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Financially embattled Cameroon begs to rejoin AGOA

YAOUNDÉ – In 2000, then US president Bill Clinton signed the African Growth & Opportunities Act (AGOA), which gave Sub-Saharan African countries a competitive edge by unilaterally allowing them duty-free exports for 6,500 products to the US.

In 2021 Africa exported $4.8bn in non-oil goods to the US through AGOA — that’s more than the GDPs of 13 African countries.

Cameroon, which was previously a member is seeking to rejoin the platform in order to boost export revenues amid falling foreign exchange earnings.

The country was in 2019, kicked out of the program by the US for rights violations by security forces in the restive southwest and northwest regions.

Cameroon’s economy minister Alamine Ousmane Mey said his country has started talks with Washington for admission back into AGOA, which grants African countries tariff-free access to the U.S. market.

The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, and global shocks triggered by the conflict in Ukraine have hit Cameroon hard, denting economic growth and undermined its ability to repay debt.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that Cameroon, a Central African oil producer, will record 4.3% economic growth this year.

The Fund has classified Cameroon as being at high risk of debt distress. But, the Fund added, that Yaounde’s debt could still be sustainable with with sound fiscal reforms and management.

AGOA has clearly been the driving factor behind the development of the private sector in some Sub-Saharan African countries. In Lesotho, the manufacturing industry grew from a handful of factories in the 1990s to become the largest private sector employer after AGOA was instated, providing employment for 40,000 people and exporting mainly American brands such as Old Navy, Walmart and Levi’s to the value of about $250m.

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