- Sierra Leone has so far not taken full advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), a piece of US trade legislation that gives countries in sub-Saharan Africa preferential access to some US export markets.
- The IGC was identified as a partner to address this issue, and was tasked with developing a national response strategy to exploit the opportunities presented by AGOA.
- IGC held a number of consultation meetings and a writing retreat with policymakers to devise an AGOA response strategy.
The government in Sierra Leone had a belated response to the opportunities offered by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries for many commodities. Despite the opportunity presented by AGOA to Sierra Leone’s businesses, relevant actors have been unable to take full advantage of the provisions of the Act, somewhat due the operational obstacles to producing at scale in Sierra Leone, but mainly due to the lack of coherent strategy from the government.
Following the extension of AGOA until 2025, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) was awarded financial support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to prepare a National AGOA Response Strategy. The MTI requested that the IGC lead on developing this strategy due to its valuable advice previously given for the country’s general export strategy and the ‘Made in Sierra Leone’ initiative.
A significant part of devising the government’s strategy involved identifying and addressing the current obstacles faced by businesses. The IGC held a number of consultation meetings in order to draw on the experience and challenges faced by other relevant stakeholders, which included the National Revenue Authority, the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau, and representatives from the private sector. Issues raised during the consultations included the problem of scaling up production of many of the current potential exports to the US, which expects much higher quantity of high-quality goods than Sierra Leonean businesses can currently produce. The consultations also identified that many processed agricultural goods that are otherwise promising would still face tariffs from the US as they are exempt from AGOA. Instead, it was agreed that focus in increasing production quantity and quality should be around high-value goods like honey, dried/smoked fish, palm oil, cashew, cocoa, and ginger.
Stemming from these detailed consultations, the IGC Sierra Leone team then hosted a writing retreat to draft a strategy jointly with MTI and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA). This co-generation of strategy with the government has meant that the IGC can continue to respond at the highest level of policymaking to help improve Sierra Leone’s export potential.