The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in partnership with the International Growth
Centre (IGC) on the 12th February, 2019 launched the National African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Response Strategy at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Aberdeen.
The Response Strategy is a result of the Government’s request for help from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to design a strategy, if implemented would enable the private sector to grow and increase exports to the United States (US) market as a way of taking advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that was initiated by the United States Government in 2000 to allow the entering of products from low income countries into the US Market on duty-free; and Sierra Leone is not an exception to this generosity.
The International Growth Centre (IGC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) undertook extensive consultations and research culminating into the designing of this Response Strategy.
In his opening statement, the event Chairman Mr. Charles Mereweather, said as the country’s economy expands, there are numerous opportunities for the US to invest in Sierra Leone through infrastructure, mining, agribusiness, oil etc. He stated that AGOA wants to integrate Sierra Leone to the global economy as it presents excellent opportunities and increases exposure for the “Made in Sierra Leone”, therefore the Country must take advantage of the available chances being one of the fortieth AGOA eligible Countries.
The SLIEPA Acting Director of Marketing and Communications who doubled as the representative of his Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sheku Lexmond Koroma, appreciated the fact that they worked together with the Ministry of Trade and the Consultant IGC to make the Response Strategy a reality, an effort from which Sierra Leone will benefit immensely through the AGOA initiative by enabling our Exporters to access the US market with goods produced in the country duty and quota free. Mr Minah expressed his delight for the launch of the strategy as it speaks directly to SLIEPA’s mandate of attracting foreign direct investment and that of export development and promotion.
Mr. Herbert P. M’cleod, the IGC Country Director, stated that IGC was established to bridge the gap between knowledge and policy. He said though it is a universal problem but it is more important to countries of low level of development; being that governments usually involve in delivering services, they have insufficient time to do research and use the result of empirical evidence that influences their policies. Filling that gap is the reason why IGC is here, he said. Mr. M’cleod noted that they were very happy to work with stakeholders to design the strategy for AGOA to access the US market. To them, it was not just to access the Market but to also look at the chains that are dragging the expansion of the private sector and to understand the difficulty the it faces and getting the economy on going. He concluded that they drew a number of studies that impacted the said design to influence policy makers.
Mr. David Luke, from UNECA, expressed their pleasure for engaging in the Response Strategy exercise. He said the dependency on the mineral sector saw the fall in the country’s economy in 2014 -2015 as a result of the collapse of the iron ore, hence AGOA is an opportunity for diversification of export, so the country needs to move from mineral dependency to exporting a wider range of goods and making use of all the markets it has access to. He said the timing of the exercise with new Government and new energy has kept a change in the Sierra Leone long standing reliance on few exported products. He noted that the AGOA legislature came into being in 2000 and it would end by 2025, for which he urged Sierra Leone to utilize the opportunity.
When officially launching the Response Strategy, the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Abraham Sesay Jones, explained that Sierra Leone has a verse arable land that is useful for cultivating variety of crops, yet the country’s agricultural productivity and products are far below its potentials. He said, very little has been achieved from cocoa being the main export commodity, because it is mostly exported on low scale and similarly the fisheries sector. “We can’t export to the European Union market largely based on our phytosanitary standard”, he said, Sierra Leone is in a hurry to gainfully use the remaining years left for the end of the AGOA project. It is against this backdrop that the Government asked UNECA to develop a Response Strategy for accessing the US market through the initiative of AGOA. This strategy will guard the Government intervention and programs to facilitate private sector to make use of the AGOA opportunity, he noted.
Mr. Jones assured development partners that they are committed to implementing this strategy and Sierra Leone will not only benefit from the duty free and access to the US market, but from also an improved business environment for other rich markets. The Hon Deputy Minister registered his delight for the privilege to launch the Response Strategy and he pronounced his wish to actively and frankly part take in the forum on ‘New Direction for Private Sector Venture’. For the strategy to succeed, he said, depends on the extent to which the private sector makes use of the enabling environment the Government will create. He concluded by formally launching the National African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Response Strategy.
© SLIEPA: Directorate of Marketing and Communication