A new enhanced AGOA Resource Center (eARC) is now serving the business community in Guinea, thanks to collaboration between the USAID West Africa Trade Hub, the USAID Business Environments for Agile Markets, the U.S. Embassy, Guinea’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Handcrafts and Guinea’s Ministry of Commerce.
Hand-woven textiles can be imported duty-free to the U.S. under AGOA.
The Minister of Commerce of Guinea, Mohamed Dorval Doumbouya, the President of CCIAG, Morlaye Diallo, the U.S. Ambassador to Guinea, Alexander Mark Laskaris, and USAID Guinea Director, Nancy Estes, presided over the opening in February. It is the 18th AGOA Resource Center in West Africa and the fifth that offers enhanced support to exporters.
“The AGOA Resource Center will allow the Guinean stakeholders in the handcrafts, agriculture, textiles and apparel sectors to have access to specific regulatory information that will facilitate trade and investment,” said U.S. Ambassador Laskaris in remarks at the inauguration of the center.
"I will do everything in my power to equip Guinean exporters with the necessary tools and support to be able to enter the U.S. market," said Minister of Commerce Mohamed Dorval Doumbouya.
Guinea regained eligibility in October 2011. The renewed AGOA eligibility confers Guinean products duty-free entry to the vast U.S. market, and creates an opportunity for Guinean companies to enhance their export readiness through the AGOA Resource Center.
With BEAM funding, a trade advisor, Youssef Keita, was hired to provide hands-on practical support to Guinean export ready companies in the sectors of specialty foods, home décor and fashion accessories, and cashew.
The USAID Trade Hub innovated the enhanced AGOA Resource Center concept after recognizing that trade support institutions (TSIs) and export ready companies needed more support. The eARC will enhance the capacity of TSIs to provide services to Guinean companies that aspire to enter the U.S. market.
Specialty food products made in Senegal are competitive in the U.S. market. AGOA trade preferences make African products more competitive.
After one year of USAID BEAM support, the Trade Advisor will be supported by the Chamber of Commerce and will continue delivering services and technical assistance usually provided by the USAID Trade Hub. This model ensures some level of sustainability in terms of service provision and trade support to the private sector.
Gaining AGOA eligibility is an important step in taking advantage of the U.S. market, but a more important step is for Guinea itself to set up the right framework to actually take advantage of AGOA, said USAID Trade Hub AGOA Services Manager Abou Fall.
“We advise that the Center work with stakeholders to set up a lean committee with various public and private sector stakeholders that will give a clear orientation as to the priority activities to enhance Guinea’s capacity to export under AGOA,” Fall said. “A critical missing link in taking advantage of AGOA in most AGOA eligible countries is usually the lack of a strategy.”
A country-wide strategy, he said, will define the priority sectors, the activities to tackle impediments to competitiveness, and the role of stakeholders such as Customs, business associations and banks, to facilitate trade and exports.
“Guinea is at a crossroads in its path to development, and trade is a fundamental catalyst for Guinea to fully start exploiting its potential,” Fall said.
While AGOA represents a tremendous opportunity, Guinean entrepreneurs need to take the lead in understanding the U.S. market dynamics and creating the right organizational structure to enhance their competitiveness, he added.
At the opening ceremony, the Government of Guinea stated that everything will be done to create an enabling environment to facilitate trade.