In a recent announcement, US President Joe Biden unveiled a plan to exclude four African nations – Uganda, Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic (CAR) – from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), a special trade program designed to provide duty-free access to the US market for more than 1,800 products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries.
The decision to expel these countries from Agoa stems from concerns about human rights violations and their failure to make progress towards democratic governance. Specifically, President Biden cited reasons for each country’s removal.
Niger and Gabon, both currently under military rule following coups earlier in the year, are considered ineligible for Agoa due to their inability to establish or continuously advance political pluralism and the rule of law.
The expulsion of the Central African Republic and Uganda from the Agoa program is linked to the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed by their respective governments.
Notably, Uganda faced global criticism for passing a highly controversial anti-homosexuality law, which includes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts.
This decision is set to have economic ramifications for these nations, as Agoa has been instrumental in promoting exports, economic growth, and job creation.
The impact varies across these countries, with CAR having minimal recorded US exports in 2022, while Uganda, Gabon, and Niger have more substantial trade ties with the US.
In fact, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni revealed that several American companies had already ceased importing textiles from Uganda due to the anti-homosexuality law.
Additionally, Museveni implemented a ban on the importation of second-hand clothes, which is seen as targeting the US, a major supplier of used garments to Uganda and other African nations.
Furthermore, the US government has taken other measures against these countries, such as suspending foreign aid to Gabon and Niger in response to their transitional governments’ lack of democratic rule.
This isn’t the first time Agoa has been used as a diplomatic tool, as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea were previously expelled from the program following military coups in those nations.