How Can the US Best Redefine Its Approach to Economic Engagement with Africa?

Hello everyone! I am sorry for the delay in sharing my update on this blog; I’ve been away at a conference for the better part of the last week, so much of my work has been delayed. I am excited to give you a brief preview of what I’ve been working on, however, and hope that this week in DC will see many meaningful conversations amongst us all about our work.

My paper topic narrowed and matured alongside my Truman Scholarship application this semester, and ended up becoming a much-expanded version of my Truman policy proposal. I chose to focus on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has largely defined the US-Africa economic relationship since its passage in 2000 under President Clinton. In eliminating tariffs, quotas, and duties on African exports to the US, AGOA redefined the US approach to Africa by shifting the focus from unilateral aid dispensation to more inclusive trade engagement, leading most commentators to hail it as a significant success. Indeed, between 2001 and 2011, exports to the US from AGOA-beneficiary nations rose over 500%, from $8.15 billion to $53.8 billion.

While this and other research seems to indicate pretty clearly that AGOA has encouraged economic growth, boosted job creation, and benefited participant nations, what is less clear is what AGOA has been missing and where it could improve. This became the focus of my research, since AGOA is set to expire in 2015 creating a huge opportunity for the President and Congress to redefine our now 15-year old approach to Africa. While my paper goes into much greater detail regarding both the triumphs and challenges of the current approach — and my recommendations for a future policy — the central elements I identified for inclusion in a new AGOA were increased infrastructure development in Africa, expansion of the Regional Trade Hub system, and a comprehensive effort aimed at lowering the costs for American businesses to operate in Africa.

If the US manages to include these three things in a new and improved AGOA policy, then I feel sure both Africa and the US will benefit. Africa appears poised only to continue rising; thus, the US must ensure it has a robust, intelligent approach to Africa and our relationship with it if we are to simultaneously help Africa develop while also helping ourselves prosper. Thanks for reading this brief preview; let’s talk about it more in DC!

Franklin McGuire
The Citadel

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