Benin has been eligible to export its textiles duty-free under the U.S. African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) since January 28, 2004. However, the country has not exported much under the preferential trade agreement, largely due to a nonfunctional AGOA visa system. During a mission in Benin last November, the Trade Hub offered to train apparel stakeholders on how this system works.
The Trade Hub made good on this offer at a June 14-15 workshop for 13 participants who represented Benin’s customs agency, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Planning and Development, the Chamber of Commerce, the country’s leading apparel exporter, African New Confection (ANC), the Trade Hub’s partner, Ethical Apparel Africa, and a freight forwarder.
“To be eligible to export apparel and other textile products to the U.S under AGOA, a country must introduce a visa system to prevent illegal transshipment,” the Trade Hub’s AGOA Specialist, Mr. Kara Diallo, told stakeholders.
The training also created a platform for the stakeholders to share their ideas on how they expect the AGOA visa system to be implemented in Benin.
Following recommendations at the end of the workshop, Mr. Diallo and the representative of Benin’s AGOA National Committee, Mr. Joel Kiniffo, met with the Director General of Customs and the Director of Cabinet at the Ministry of Commerce and urged them to designate authorized officials to sign the AGOA visa and make it available at both the Cotonou port and airport. Both officials said they would expedite the procedures and re-establish the AGOA visa system in Benin.
Next door to Benin, Mr. Diallo moderated a June 22 AGOA session during a training workshop for Togolese journalists on processing economic information organized by the U.S Embassy in Lomé, Togo.
Mr. Diallo and the Trade Hub’s Chief of Party, Ms. Carol Adoum, reviewed AGOA’s objectives and benefits, eligibility criteria for countries and products, documentation required for export as well as current AGOA export data.