African Growth and Opportunity Act: Pro-Women?
Throughout the developing world, women face the greatest challenges to participating in trade. This is particularly true in Africa, where although women provide most of the continent’s labor, they cannot earn an income because they cannot access the resources they need to succeed - financing, land, and education, to name a few. Even in countries where women's legal rights are strong, many women are not able to exercise them. In very poor countries - where there are few jobs and formal ways of earning an income - selling products abroad can help women earn the income they need to feed their children. Understanding the barriers women face to accessing markets— as producers, workers and consumers—is critical to reducing poverty in Africa.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a U.S. trade program created in 2001 that encourages entrepreneurs and exporters in 40 African countries to sell products to the the U.S. It does this by removing heavy trade taxes that are difficult for people in poor countries to pay. Every year at the AGOA forum representatives from African and American governments, civil society, and the private sector meet to discuss what is and isn't working in AGOA.
Rori Kramer, Women Thrive's Director of Global Trade, spoke at this year's AGOA Forum on July 14, 2008 in Washington D.C. She described the ways that AGOA has helped women living in poverty but explained how more can be done to help Africa's poorest and most vulnerable populations fully benefit from trade's potential to transform lives. For example, sustainable jobs for women created by trade can translate into support for entire families and communities. AGOA's success in opening some U.S. markets and creating jobs in Africa has been good for women, particularly in the textile and apparel sector. But many of these jobs are not permanent and sustainable. Furthermore, there are not enough resources and training for women who want to sell their products to the U.S.