Share this

Making sense of US-Africa trade

Africa / 05-07-17 / by

Trying to understand how the US’ engagement with Africa might evolve, if at all, under a Trump administration is like reading tea leaves, writes Shannon Manders.


At the US-Africa Business Summit in Washington in June, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross urged African countries to strike bilateral trade deals with the US rather than rely solely on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a 17-year-old preferential trade agreement that provides duty-free market access to the US for 39 qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries.

To its detriment, the multilateral agreement is a one-way privilege: African countries are not required to import US goods duty-free. It was renewed by US congress in 2015 for an additional 10 years, but, unlike with a free trade agreement, AGOA’s benefits can be cut and conditions imposed at any time.

“Having two-way trade agreements, not just temporary trade agreements, would create long-term sustainable improvements to the quality of life of everyone,” Ross said in his speech.

Ask anyone involved in US-Africa trade, and the general consensus is that a move towards bilateral trade agreements (of which there are currently none) that would bring about greater reciprocity for the US is likely.

“The new administration will react adversely to anything that’s seen as a giveaway: anything that’s being perceived as something that the US is being taken advantage of,” surmises Scot Anderson, Denver-based Hogan Lovells partner and global head of its energy and natural resources group. “If you’re an African nation or company looking to open up avenues to the US, I think looking for that quid pro quo is probably something that might get you in the door,” he says.

Ross’ recent speech echoes what was laid out in a report by the office of the US trade representative (USTR) entitled Beyond AGOA: Looking to the future of US-Africa trade and investment published in September last year (then under the former administration), suggesting that alternatives to AGOA may have already been in the pipeline, regardless of a change of power in the US.

The report reads: “As more reciprocal arrangements go into effect within Sub-Saharan Africa and between African countries and other developed country partners, the pressure to consider more stable, permanent, and mutually beneficial alternatives to AGOA will grow in the US as well.”

But drilling down into the specifics of exactly what all this could mean for AGOA – and the myriad of other lesser-known investment treaties and framework agreements that the US has with Africa – remains, at this stage, speculative: the administration of President Donald Trump still has no spokesperson on Africa. That would be the role of the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, and the post is still vacant, pending a nomination by the administration.

“That has left a void on Africa policy,” says Frank Samolis, co-chair of the international trade practice at Squire Patton Boggs, who sits on the board of directors of the US-Africa Chamber of Commerce.

His sentiment resonates with the majority of experts on Africa: “There is absolutely no priority for Africa under the current US administration,” says Robert Besseling, executive director of specialist intelligence company EXX Africa.

And while the US’ trade relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa is underdeveloped (the US Census Bureau puts 2016 exports to the region at US$22bn and imports at US$26.5bn), it has not escaped the office of the USTR that “in 2012, eight of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world were in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the IMF”, as written on its website.


The facts so far

What we do know is that President Trump wants to significantly axe the budget for the State Department and the US agency for international development (USAID), which would make deep cuts in long-term development aid, humanitarian food assistance and peacekeeping missions around the world.

In its detailed budget revealed in May, the White House asks for US$25.6bn for the core budget of the State Department and the USAID, plus US$12bn for overseas contingency operations. The total figure is 32% below current spending.

The point was driven home by commerce secretary Ross in his summit speech: “Our trade relationship is vital to the security and stability of both the US and Africa. But our relationship with Africa has to continue its transition from being aid-based to becoming trade-based.”

According to Samolis, these budget cuts are troubling because they are the only tangible piece of evidence that the Trump administration is not providing the level of assistance that Africa has received in the past from prior administrations.

“When you’re talking about infrastructure improvements and the threat of famine, when those aid levels are drastically reduced, that’s a sign that the Trump administration – from an aid standpoint – seems to be taking a much more parsimonious approach,” says Samolis. “That’s a pretty important indicator on where this administration is coming from on foreign assistance. That concerns me.”

One of the most well-known USAID projects under threat as a result of the cuts is former President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative – a US$7bn plan launched in 2013 to double access to electricity across Sub-Saharan Africa. Although the initiative is only just getting started, it’s now in limbo until the Trump administration takes a view on it.

“There’s a chance that Power Africa survives but as a diminished initiative,” says Anderson at Hogan Lovells.

In its favour, he tells GTR, there has been some talk – even among conservative thinkers – that the US can use initiatives like Power Africa to promote its own self-interest.

“People looking to influence policy have been arguing that it actually is in the interest of the US economy and US workers to have something like Power Africa, because even though the infrastructure is being built in Africa, a lot of it is US technology, and some of it is US hardware – power lines, generators, etc. But it’s also US know-how, so US companies will be engaged to build this infrastructure,” he explains.


AGOA tension

Set up in 2000, AGOA gives duty-free and quota-free access to the US market on around 6,000 products from qualifying African countries. In his speech, Ross urged African countries to comply with the act’s eligibility requirements. Many interpreted this as a veiled warning to Kenya and other members of the East African Community (EAC), which have recently been accused of falling foul of these criteria.

“We must ensure countries currently benefiting from trade preferences granted by our AGOA continue complying with the eligibility requirements established in US law,” said Ross. “The administration takes these congressional requirements very seriously. And in applying our laws, we will vigorously protect the rights of US companies and workers in the global arena.”

Tensions rose earlier this year when the US-based Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (Smart) filed comments requesting that the USTR and the trade policy staff committee (TPSC) launch a review of the AGOA benefits for Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. The group believes the countries violated terms of the act when they decided last year to phase out imports of used clothing by 2019. The countries had been instructed to do so by the EAC, which told all member states to buy their clothing from within the region to boost local manufacturing and help grow the region’s economy.

Smart believes the move imposes significant economic hardship on the US’ used clothing industry.

In response, the Kenyan government had hired Washington lobbying firm Sonoran Policy Group to help prevent the country’s expulsion from AGOA, and in late June the USTR published a notice announcing that a review of Kenya’s inclusion in AGOA “is not warranted at this time”. The jury is still out on the three other EAC states.

But there has been no talk of amending or cancelling AGOA, and while Samolis at Squire Patton Boggs says that there are “possibilities” for the diminution of AGOA benefits, he doesn’t think this will happen.

The bigger problem with AGOA, he says, is that it has never been terribly effective beyond the petroleum industry (in 2013, AGOA imports of petroleum imports took up an 86% share). “If the purpose of AGOA is to promote diversification of economic resources, then that’s not been a good result,” Samolis says.

And if the Americans are after greater reciprocity, the Africans also feel that they’re not getting a good deal. “It allows western economies to come and buy natural resources in Africa on the cheap, and it allows those markets to flood Africa with western-manufactured goods – also on the cheap – therefore leaving no incentive for African companies to invest locally in manufacturing,” says Besseling at EXX Africa.


Shifting powers

Given the insular view that Trump has taken thus far on a global scale, and with China stepping in as the unlikely champion of free trade, many believe that this situation may play out in Africa too.

If the US does retreat from the continent, it could give more advantage to China, and an opening to the Asian nation to fill in the gaps left by the US.

“In a way it’s analogous to the US withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): we pull out of global leadership, whether it’s on trade and the TPP or economic aid in the case of USAID. You leave a void that naturally other countries will try and fill, and in my view, in both trade and aid, that would be China,” says Samolis.

The USTR is aware of the dangers of being left out in the cold, and writes in its report: “Although the US believes expanded Sino-African relations are generally positive for Africa and for the global trading system, reciprocal arrangements between China and Sub-Saharan Africa without parity for American exporters will only intensify concerns that US exporters will find themselves being left out of African markets.”

Taking this a step further, some believe that Africa could become a chessboard for the US and China to battle out their egos.

“China is Africa’s biggest trading partner and a significant investor, and it may see a vacuum – because of the retreating west – to really flex its muscles,” says Ronak Gopaldas, Africa macro strategist at Rand Merchant Bank in South Africa.

Samolis agrees that if there is increasing friction between the US and China on trade, there is a possibility that the administration may decide to put more resources into investment in Africa, simply to hold the line on Chinese influence on the continent.

“If tensions exacerbate between the US and China, there is a possibility that Africa may become more important to this administration as a politico-economic bulwark against topping further aggression,” he says.

Nevertheless, the continent’s importance in such a situation is probably somewhat exaggerated and Africa would, for the most part, be a bystander to any kind of global trade dispute. One could argue that in light of the US’ engagement with the likes of Canada, Mexico and Cuba, among others, the best that Africa could hope for is benign neglect.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

take me back


Recommended for you

Privacy Policy

Our privacy commitments

This Privacy Policy outlines the information we may collect about you in relation to your use of our websites, events, related publications and services (“personal data”) and how we may use that personal data. It also outlines the methods by which we and our service providers may (subject to necessary consents) monitor your online behaviour to deliver customised advertisements, marketing materials and other tailored services. This Privacy Policy also tells you how you can verify the accuracy of your personal data and how you can request that we delete or update it.

This Privacy Policy applies to all websites operated by Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd (as indicated on the relevant website).

This privacy statement does not cover the activities of third parties, and you should consult those third-party sites’ privacy policies for information on how your data is used by them.

Any questions regarding this Policy and our privacy practices should be sent by e-mail to or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

Who are we?

Established in 2002 and with offices in London and Singapore, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is the world’s leading trade and trade finance media company, offering information, news, events and services for companies and individuals involved in global trade.

Our principal business activities are:

  • Business-to-Business financial publishing. We provide a range of products and services focused on international commodities, export, supply chain and trade finance markets including magazines, newsletters, electronic information and data
  • Organisers of seminars, conferences, training courses and exhibitions for the finance industry

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is a company registered in the United Kingdom with company number 4407327 | VAT Registration: 799 1585 59

Data Protection Policy

This Data Protection Policy explains when and why we collect personal information about people who visit our website, how we use it, the conditions under which we may disclose it to others and how we keep it secure.

Why do we collect information from you?

Our primary goal in collecting personal data from you is to give you an enjoyable customised experience whilst allowing us to provide services and features that will meet your needs.
We collect certain personal data from you, which you give to us when using our Site and/or registering or subscribing for our products and services. However, we also give you the option to access our Sites’ home pages without subscribing or registering or disclosing your personal data.

We also collect certain personal data from other group companies to whom you have given information through their websites (including, by way of example, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and subsidiaries, in accordance with the purposes listed below). Should we discover that any such personal data has been delivered to any of the Sites, we will remove that information as soon as possible.

Why this policy exists

This Data Protection Policy ensures Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd:

  • Complies with data protection law and follow good practice
  • Protects the rights of staff, customers and partners
  • Is open about how it stores and processes individuals’ data
  • pretexts itself from the risk of a data breach

We may change this Policy from time to time so please check this page occasionally to ensure that you’re happy with any changes. By using our website, you’re agreeing to be bound by this Policy.

Data protection law

The Data Protection Act 1998 described how organisations – including Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd – must collect, handle and store personal information. These rules apply regardless of whether data is stored electronically, on paper or on other materials. To comply with the law, personal information collected must be stored safely, not disclosed unlawfully and used fairly.

The Data Protection Act is underpinned by eight important principles. These say that personal data must:

  • Be processed fairly and lawfully
  • Be obtained only for specific, lawful purposes
  • Be adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Be accurate and kept up to date
  • Not be held for any longer than necessary
  • Processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects
  • Be protected in appropriate ways
  • Not be transferred outside the European Economic Area (EEA), unless that country of territory also ensures an adequate level of protection

How do we collect information from you?

We obtain information about you when you use our website, for example, when you contact us about products and services, when you register for an event, register to receive eNewsletters, subscribe or register for a trial to our GTR magazine/website.

 Types of Personal Data Held and its Use

1.      Customer Services and Administration

On some Sites, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd collects personal data such as your name, job title, department, company, e-mail, phone, work and/or home address, in order to register you for access to certain content, subscriptions and events. In addition, we may also store information including IP address and page analytics, including information regarding what pages are accessed, by whom and when.

This information is used to administer and deliver to you the products and/or services you have requested, to operate our Sites efficiently and improve our service to you, and to retain records of our business transactions and communications. By using the Sites and submitting personal information through the registration process you are agreeing that we may collect, hold, process and use your information (including personal information) for the purpose of providing you with the Site services and developing our business, which shall include (without limitation) the purposes described in the below paragraphs.

2.      Monitoring use of our Sites

Where, as part of our Site services, we enable you to post information or materials on our Site, we may access and monitor any information which you upload or input, including in any password-protected sections. Subject to any necessary consents, we also monitor and/or record the different Sites you visit and actions taken on those Sites, e.g. content viewed or searched for. If you are a registered user (e.g. a subscriber or taking a trial), when you log on, this places a cookie on your machine. This enables your access to content and services that

are not publicly available. Once you are logged on, the actions you take – for example, viewing an article – will be recorded (subject to any necessary consents). We may use technology or a service provider to do this for us. This information may be used for one or more of the following purposes:

  • to fulfil our obligations to you;
  • to improve the efficiency, quality and design of our Sites and services;
  • to see which articles, features and services are most read and used
  • to track compliance with our terms and conditions of use, e.g. to ensure that you are acting within the scope of your user licence;
  • for marketing purposes (subject to your rights to opt-in and opt-out of receiving certain marketing communications) – see paragraph 3 below;
  • for advertising purposes, although the information used for these purposes does not identify you personally. Please see paragraph 5 below for more details;
  • to protect or comply with our legal rights and obligations; and
  • to enable our journalists to contact and interact with you online in connection with any content you may post to our Sites.

Please see paragraph 5 below for more information on cookies and similar technologies and a link to a page where you can turn them on or off.

3.      Marketing

Some of your personal data collected under paragraphs 1 and 2 above may be used by us to contact you by e-mail, telephone and/or post for sending information or promotional material on our products and/or services and/or those of our other group companies.
We give you the opportunity to opt-out of receiving marketing communications. Further detail can be found on the applicable Site and in the footer of each marketing communication sent by us, our group companies or service providers. See also “Consents and opt-outs” section below.
We will not share your information with third parties for marketing purposes.

4.      Profiling

We may analyse your personal information to create a profile of your interests and preferences so that we can contact you with information relevant to you.

5.      Cookies and similar technologies

All our Sites use cookies and similar technical tools to collect information about your access to the Site and the services we provide.

What is a cookie?

When you enter some sites, your computer will be issued with a cookie. Cookies are text files that identify your computer to servers. Cookies in themselves do not identify the individual user, just the computer used.

Many sites do this whenever a user visits their site in order to track traffic flows, recording those areas of the site that have been visited by the computer in question, and for how long.

Users have the opportunity to set their computers to accept all cookies, to notify them when a cookie is issued, or not to receive cookies at any time. Selecting not to receive means that certain personalised services Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd offers cannot then be provided to that user.


Why do we use cookies?

  1. Log In – Where we provide log in mechanisms for site users a cookie is created at login and for the duration of the session. Each cookie contains a unique reference number only (no personal information) which is used to confirm you are authorised.
  2. Analytics – To allow us to keep track of traffic to our website we use cookies. The cookies simply tell us if you have previously visited our website so we can get more accurate figures for New vs Returning visitors.

Find and control your cookies

All of the major browser providers offer advice on setting up and using the privacy and security functions for their products. If you require technical advice or support for a specific browser/version please contact the provider or visit their website for further details: / /
 / / /
 / /

We may use cookies to:

  • remember that you have used the Site before; this means we can identify the number of unique visitors we receive to different parts of the Site. This allows us to make sure we have enough capacity for the number of users that we get and make sure that the Site runs fast enough
  • remember your login session so you can move from one page to another within the Site;
  • store your preferences or your user name and password so that you do not need to input these details every time you visit the Site;
  • customise elements of the layout and/or content of the pages of Site for you;
  • record activity on our Sites so that we understand how you use our Sites enabling us to better tailor our content, services and marketing to your needs;
  • collect statistical information about how you use the Site so that we can improve the Site; and
  • gather information about the pages on the Site that you visit, and other information about other websites that you visit, so as to place you in a “market segment”. This information is only collected by reference to the IP address that you are using, but does include information about the county and city you are in, together with the name of your internet service provider.

Most web browsers automatically accept cookies but, if you prefer, you can change your browser to prevent that, or to notify you each time a cookie is set. You can also learn more about cookies in general by visiting which includes additional useful information on cookies and how to block cookies using different types of browser. Please note however, that by blocking, deleting or turning off cookies used on the Site you may not be able to take full advantage of the Site.

6.      E-mail tracking

E-mail tracking is a method for monitoring the e-mail delivery to those subscribers who have opted-in to receive marketing e-mails from GTR, including GTR Africa, GTR Asia, GTR Americas, GTR Europe, GTR Mena, GTR eNews, Third party e-mails and GTR Ventures.

Why do we track e-mails?

So that we can better understand our users’ needs, we track responses, subscription behaviour and engagement to our e-mails – for example, to see which links are the most popular in newsletters. They enable us to understand the consumers journey through metrics including open rate, click-through rate, bounces and unsubscribes. Any other purposes for which Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd wishes to use your personal data will be notified to you and your personal data will not be used for any such purpose without obtaining your prior consent.

How do you track GTR eNewsletters?

To do this, we use pixel GIFs, also known as “pixel tags” – these are small image files that are placed within the body of our e-mail messages. When that image is downloaded from our web servers, the e-mail is recorded as being opened. By using some form of digitally time-stamped record to reveal the exact time and date that an e-mail was received or opened, as well the IP address of the recipient.

7.      Consents and opt-outs

You can give your consent to opt-out of all or any particular uses of your data as indicated above by:

  • Indicating at the point on the relevant Site where personal data is collected
  • Informing us by e-mail, post or phone
  • Updating your preferences on the applicable Site or eNewsletter (unsubscribe and preference options are available in the footer of each eNewsletter)

To turn cookies and similar technologies on and off, see the information in paragraph 5 above. Any questions regarding consents and opt-outs should be sent by e-mail to or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

8.      Disclosures

Information collected at one Site may be shared between Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and other group companies for the purposes listed above.

We may transfer, sell or assign any of the information described in this policy to third parties as a result of a sale, merger, consolidation, change of control, transfer of assets or reorganisation of our business.

9.      Public forums, message boards and blogs

Some of our Sites may have a message board, blogs or other facilities for user generated content available and users can participate in these facilities. Any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should always be careful when deciding to disclose your personal information.

10.  Data outside the EEA

Services on the Internet are accessible globally so collection and transmission of personal data is not always limited to one country. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd may transfer your personal data, for the above-listed purposes to other third parties, which may be located outside the European Economic Area and/or with a different level of personal data protection. However, when conducting transfers, we take all necessary steps to ensure that your data is treated reasonably, securely and in accordance with this Privacy Statement.

Who has access to your information?

Confidentiality and Security of Your Personal Data

We are committed to keeping the data you provide us secure and will take reasonable precautions to protect your personal data from loss, misuse or alteration.

However, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our Site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features described above to try to prevent unauthorised access.

We have implemented information security policies, rules and technical measures to protect the personal data that we have under our control from:

  • unauthorised access
  • improper use or disclosure
  • unauthorised modification
  • unlawful destruction or accidental loss

All our employees, contractors and data processors (i.e. those who process your personal data on our behalf, for the purposes listed above), who have access to, and are associated with the processing of your personal data, are obliged to keep the information confidential and not use it for any other purpose than to carry out the services they are performing for us.


Everyone who works for or with Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd has some responsibility for ensuring data is collected, stored and handled appropriately. Each team handling personal data must ensure that it is handled and processed in line with this policy and data protection principles. However, the following people have key areas of responsibility. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd meets its legal obligations.

Name of Data Controller

The Data Controller is Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is subject to the UK Data Protection Act 1998 and is registered in the UK with the Information Commissioner`s Office.

How to access, update and erase your personal information

If you wish to know whether we are keeping personal data about you, or if you have an enquiry about our privacy policy or your personal data held by us, in relation to any of the Sites, you can contact the Data Protection Officer via:

  • By writing to this address: Data Protection Officer, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, UK
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8673 9666
  • E-mail:

Upon request, we will provide you with a readable copy of the personal data which we keep about you. We may require proof of your identity and may charge a small fee (not exceeding the statutory maximum fee that can be charged) to cover administration and postage.

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd allows you to challenge the data that we hold about you and, where appropriate in accordance with applicable laws, you may have your personal information:

  • erased
  • rectified or amended
  • completed

Disclosing data for other reasons

In certain circumstances, the Data Protection Act allows personal data to be disclosed to law enforcement agencies without the consent of the data subject. Under these circumstances, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, will disclose requested data. However, the Data Controller will ensure the request is legitimate, seeking assistance from the board and from the company’s legal advisors where necessary.

Changes to this Privacy Statement

We will occasionally update this Privacy Statement to reflect new legislation or industry practice, group company changes and customer feedback. We encourage you to review this Privacy Statement periodically to be informed of how we are protecting your personal data.

Providing information

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd aims to ensure that individuals are aware that their data is being processed, and that they understand.

  • How the data is being used
  • How to exercise their rights

To this end, the company has a privacy statement, setting out how data relating to individuals is used by the company. This is available on request and available on the company’s website.

Review of this policy

We keep this Policy under regular review. This Privacy Statement was last updated in April 2018.

Welcome to GTR's new website! Enjoy 4 free articles on us.
If you already have a subscription to GTR, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active subscription, please
to continue your access.
Sorry, this publication is available for subscribers only!
If you already have a subscription to GTR, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active subscription, please
to continue your access.
Welcome to the GTR's new website!
If you already have a subscription to GTR, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active subscription, enjoy 4 articles on us this month!
to start your access.
Welcome to GTR's new website! Enjoy 4 free articles on us.
If you already have a subscription to GTR, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active subscription, please
to continue your access.
Sorry, this publication is available for subscribers only!
If you are a GTR subscriber, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active GTR subscription, you can still enjoy 4 free articles this month on us!
To subscribe to GTR,
Welcome to the GTR's new website!
If you already have a subscription to GTR, please
For log in issues or questions, please contact Rupert Hedley at or
If you do not have an active subscription, enjoy 4 articles on us this month!
to start your access.