Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson at AGOA National Utilization Strategy Validation Event

Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry Alan Kyerematen,
Honorable Deputy Ministers,
Heads of Private Sector Associations,
Media representatives,
Distinguished guests:

Good morning.  I am pleased to be here today with business leaders who are working to forge connections and strengthen commercial ties between the United States and Ghana, and beyond.  Thank you to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for being such a strong partner in the quest to facilitate trade between our two countries. Your efforts will make Ghana more competitive in the global market.

It has now been just over 17 years since the African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed into law.  As you know, in 2015, our Congress renewed the law for another 10 years, demonstrating again the U.S. government’s desire to help Africa reach its full economic potential.

AGOA is an opportunity for Ghana to access the U.S. marketplace, increase exposure for “made in Ghana” goods, and create more jobs.  However, Ghana has not taken as much advantage of AGOA as I had hoped.  In 2015, Ghana exported $9 million worth of goods under AGOA.  In 2016, Ghana exported $29 million worth of goods, of which only $12 million was for non-oil goods.  While this upward trend is encouraging, this number should increase substantially if Ghana is to be fully integrated into the global economy.

One example of how Ghana has been able to take advantage of AGOA is through the apparel industry.  I would like to take a moment to recognize Salma Salifu.  Salma is the Managing Director of Dignity–Do the Right Thing, which manufactures apparel for distribution in the U.S. market.  Dignity–Do the Right Thing (DTRT) is now the largest Ghanaian exporter of apparel.  The company manufactures 25,000 garments a day and exports approximately $1 million a month to the United States.  Starting in 2014 with 145 sewing machines, Salma now employs approximately 1,600 workers, most of whom are women.  Over the next year, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we expect Dignity-DTRT to expand that workforce to almost 3,000 workers — and to increase AGOA exports from that factory alone by $20 million annually.

Salma and Dignity–Do the Right Thing are examples of the good things the United States and Ghana can do together.  I encourage other businesses in this room to learn from Salma’s experience and work together to drive job creation and economic growth in Ghana.  Can you imagine the difference if — three years from now — 10 or 20 or 100 local businesses could share similar success stories?

With that in mind, I want to mention a new publication launched by USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, called AGOA ABCs.  This publication outlines the step-by-step process that a Ghanaian business should take to export duty free to the United States through AGOA.  Copies are available for you in the back of the room.

I am encouraged by the attendance of everyone here today.  I sincerely hope that after this validation event, companies will do more to take advantage of AGOA, and that the Government of Ghana will set forth additional policies that will enable the private sector to flourish.

Ghana has tremendous potential to be “the trade gateway of Africa.”  But the choice is ultimately up to the government and the people of Ghana:  What do you want the future of Ghana to be?  The United States is ready to work together with you to create an enabling business environment — one that will build upon Ghana’s stable economic and political foundation, and create jobs for citizens of both our countries.  

In fact, we are looking to the annual AGOA Forum in Lome, Togo, August 8-10, as well as to a third competitiveness forum to be organized by the Business Council for International Understanding later this year.

Together, let’s grow Ghanaian exports!  Thank you.