President Obama and African Leaders Take Part in Three Action-Oriented Sessions as Part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C.

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It is very pleasurable and privileged to attend of 2nd Annual AGOA CSO Network Spring Conference, April 13-15, held at Washington DC. Marriott at Metro Central. The AGOA CSO Session Meeting/Town Hall this year’s event theme unequivocally addressed: “The Role of Civil Society in AGOA Trade Expansion and Inclusive Development in Africa.”

The event kicked off with an Advisory Board meeting and AGOA CSO Planning/Town Hall meetings on Wednesday, April 13, 2016; with several noteworthy sessions for members of Civil Society on Thursday, April 14th and concludes with a panel discussion on Trade and Private Sector Expansion: A Vehicle for Economic Growth and Improved Standard of Living in Africa on Friday, April 15th.

Again, it is very importantly to recapitulate, AGOA CSO was established in 2003 in Phoenix, Mauritius, with 102 member organizations from United States. The Civil Society Network (CSO) is a consortium of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Small-to-Medium Size Business Representatives, Chamber of Commerce and other groups interested in the successful application of AGOA for the benefit of the US and African peoples.

The main focus remains, improving the ease and understanding of US-Africa trade and to fully utilize the benefits of AGOA, thus, securing a place for African Countries in the global economy, raising the standards of living of the masses of Africa and not limited to increased US-Africa trade, economic development, and the establishment of good governance, transparency, sustainable democracy and human rights throughout the countries of Africa.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, to stimulate economic growth, to encourage economic integration, and to facilitate sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy. The Act establishes the annual U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Economic Cooperation Forum (known as the AGOA Forum) to promote a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues. At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.

Since its inception, AGOA has helped to increase U.S. two-way trade with sub-Saharan Africa. According President Barrack Obama: "Africa must know that they will always have a strong and reliable partner in the United States of America." And announced, President Obama then announced that, “due to the success of this summit, U.S. - Africa Leaders Summits will now take place every four years "to hold ourselves accountable for our commitments and to sustain our momentum."

Its membership benefits are enormous with very competitive administrative fees, as compared to other similar organizations. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) CSO Network Membership are categorized as follows: Student, Grassroot, Individual Membership: Advisory, Corporate, Trustee.

Since the Civil Society Network establishment in 2003 a couple of projects were unveiled and ongoing, among these are:

· Annual report on eligibility requirement compliance of AGOA nations and assessment of compliance by non-AGOA nations compiled by national network affiliates;

· Ongoing training by network member NGOs on trade capacity for African and American businesses to support and expand AGOA trade by small and medium enterprises;

· Ongoing training by network member NGOs on trade, economic, political and social policy issues for African governments to enhance AGOA eligibility and compliance;

· Annual report on the impact of trade on African societies that measures the impact beyond commercial statistics and offers recommendations on broadening the benefits of trade.

The 2nd Annual AGOA CSO Network Spring Conference meeting was conducted using Chatham House Rules; off record, freely open for questions and answers. A panel of experts provided participants with policy details and institutional objectives for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the African Union (AU) Vision 2063, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In addition, this group of distinguished panelists discussed how their respective organizations work with civil society organizations across Africa and the United States in ensuring citizens' engagement and participation during the implementation process.

Exceptionally experienced, Mr. Fred Oladeinde was at the helm of affairs, spoke eloquently and exhibited due diligence throughout the event. Some Participants and Moderators are underlisted: Patricia Baine, President, The Africa Society Robert Kirk, Senior VP, International Development Group (IDG) Panelists: H.E. Professor Hosanna Alidou, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Niger Mr. Eric R. Biel, Associate Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Labor Ms. Nancy A. Donaldson, Director, Washington Office, International Labor Office (ILO) Ms. Florizelle" Florie" Liser, Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, Office of the United States Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President of the US H.E. Mninwa Mahlangu, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of South Africa to the US H.E. Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner, African Union (invited) Discussants: Ms. Temitope Iluyemi, Associate Director, Proctor & Gamble: Mr. Henry Yamba Karama, Managing Director, Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company (SLMPC) Mr. Emmanuel Tamen, Counsel, Miller & Chevalier Chartered.

Francis John,
HOPe Africa USA, Kansas City.
[email protected]