The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a market access arrangement between United States of America (USA) and Africa with broad objective of boosting exports from Sub-Saharan Africa to USA by eliminating tariff barriers on a large number of their exports.
The current 10-year extension of AGOA is set to expire in September 2025. This unilateral trade agreement provides duty free access to the US market to over 6,400 product lines and 1,800 new tariff line items in addition to the 4,600 The renewal through the AGOA Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015 covers the third country fabric (TCF) provision, which is a special rule that allows lesser-developed beneficiary countries duty-free/quota-free access into the U.S. for apparel made from fabric imported from non-AGOA beneficiary countries.
Although not considered to be a lesser developed country (LDC), Botswana qualifies for the TCF provision following the granting of the lesser-developed beneficiary countries status under AGOA. For a country to be eligible, the US President determines that it has met or is making continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy; rule of law, political pluralism, and right to due process; elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment; economic policies to reduce poverty; a system to combat bribery and corruption; and protection of internationally recognized worker rights items enjoying duty-free status on the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.
The US as an Export Market
The United States is one the world’s largest importing countries. US importers are always looking for new products to import and resell. According to US Department of Commerce, US Imports were $2,895.3 billion in 2017, up $182.5 billion from 2016. Imports of goods increased $153.2 billion to $2,361.5 billion while those of services increased $29.2 billion to $533.9 billion in 2017. The top US imports include motor vehicles, crude oil, cellphones, computer chips, gasoline, motor vehicle parts, medicines and commercial vehicles.
Since 2010, textiles/apparel has been Botswana’s main AGOA beneficiary sector, constituting between 90-100% of total AGOA exports. During its peak, Botswana had over 10 textiles/apparel firms exporting under AGOA. In 2017 Botswana total exports to USA were P775.6 million, of which AGOA exports accounted for P9.9 million. Diamonds account for over 95% of total exports to the US. Currently Botswana does not have a single company that is benefitting from the AGOA preference.
Of the over 10 textiles/apparel firms that operated from Botswana, some companies have shifted focus towards South Africa while some have relocated with others having closed down. The National AGOA response strategy is an effort by government to ramp up exports into the US market.
Potential Benefits of AGOA For Botswana
Potential benefits for Botswana from the AGOA unilateral trade preference program include: Tariff advantage: Exports from Botswana have a significant tariff advantage over those from non-AGOA eligible countries, making Botswana products more competitive, e.g. some tariffs exemptions in the textiles/apparel sector under AGOA are as high as 30%. Wide range of eligible products: The AGOA Extension offers an increased range of eligible products (over 6,400 products lines) which allows a more diversified exports to U.S. by Botswana.
Opportunity for regional integration: AGOA facility provides an opportunity to create regional integration through the development of value chains, production sharing and collaboration to meet volumes required by the U.S. market and for pitching the region as one big market. Capacity building of associations and institutions: Local institutions will build their capacity and strengthen their process through technical assistance and technical capacity building provided by the various U.S. support agencies such as the regional trade and investment hubs and others whose mandate is to provide technical assistance in AGOA beneficiary countries to facilitate increased utilization of the program.
Promotion of women in social and economic development: The AGOA Extension and Enhancement Act, encourages the promotion of women in social and economic development. Increased participation of women in labour will help increase the quantity and quality of available labour for industries involved in international trade. Job creation: AGOA has been credited with the creation of over 300,000 jobs in Sub Saharan Africa since its inception hence increased utilization of AGOA by Botswana will result in more job opportunities for Batswana.
Long term relationships: Local companies that utilize AGOA will be exposed to the U.S. market and create strategic alliances and other relationships with their U.S. counterparts, which might continue after the expiry of the AGOA facility. Giving local companies international exposure: Participation in the U.S. market under AGOA gives companies the much-needed experience for entering other international markets.
What Can Botswana Companies Export Under AGOA?
The AGOA agreement provides export opportunities to over 6400 product lines as long as they meet the AGOA rules of origin requirements and are exported directly from a beneficiary country to the United States. Botswana has developed a National AGOA Response Strategy to guide implementation of the trade agreement. The specific objectives of this strategy are to advise the Government of Botswana on how to systematically take advantage of AGOA, to identify policy responses in targeted sectors to capacitate current and potential exporters in Botswana to increase exports under AGOA, to develop an ongoing consultative mechanism between the public and private sector players and to attract investment into identified sectors that can benefit from international trade.
The National AGOA Response Strategy for Botswana has identified a number of sectors that could be developed in order to increase exports to the US. These include the Handicrafts, Meat & Meat Products, Textile/ Apparel, Natural/ Indigenous Products, Jewelry and Semi-Precious Stones and Horticulture & Agro-processing Products. Companies can check whether their products are eligible for AGOA preferences on HYPERLINK "http://agoa.info/about-agoa/products.html" http://agoa.info/about-agoa/products.html
How Can Companies Register for AGOA?
Prior to exportation, traders are required to register with the nearest BURS – Regional Office (Customs and Excise Division). In order for the goods to enjoy this trade concession, they must be processed or manufactured in Botswana as prescribed under the AGOA Rules of Origin (RoO). RoO are the requirements which set out the working and processing that must be undertaken locally in order for a product to be considered the “economic origin” of the exporting country. The salient features of AGOA's general (non-textiles and apparel) Rules of Origin are as follows:
The product must be imported directly from the AGOA-beneficiary country into the United States;
Items must be "growth, product or manufacture" of one or more AGOA-beneficiary countries (these requirements can be met jointly by more than one AGOA beneficiary – this concept is called ‘cumulation of origin’);
Products may incorporate materials sourced from outside countries (i.e. non AGOA-beneficiaries) provided that the sum of the direct cost or value of the materials produced in one or more designated AGOA-beneficiary countrie(s), plus the "direct costs of processing" undertaken in the AGOA-beneficiary countrie(s), equal at least 35% of the product's appraised value at the US port of entry;
Cost of local materials + direct cost of processing must >= 35%
In addition, a total of up to 15% of the 35% local content value (as appraised at the US port of entry) may consist of US-originating parts and materials. This concept is called “bilateral cumulation of origin”). In addition to compliance with RoO It would be worthwhile to have a clearing agent on the U.S. side. All shipments should include commercial invoice and Certificate of Origin, which specifies the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code(s) for the product(s) being shipped. For textiles/apparel products only, an AGOA visa stamp is required, which is obtained from the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS)
What Support is Available for Botswana Companies?
The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has appointed Botswana Investment and Trade Centre to coordinate implementation of the National AGOA Response Strategy for Botswana. Various stakeholders such as government ministries, sector associations, business support institutions and the private sector all have specific roles in the implementation of the strategy. BITC supports the industry through its export development and promotion programs.
It promotes Botswana products in international markets by participating in outward and reverse trade missions. The outward trade missions include general and sector specific trade fairs, and contact promotion missions. BITC also capacitates exporters through the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) which assist companies to reach export readiness status by providing technical and non-technical assistance. Other business support can be obtained from other institutions like Local Enterprise Authority, Botswana Development Corporation, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency, Botswana Bureau of Standards and Botswana Unified Revenue Services.
Temo Ntapu is Director Research at Botswana Investment and Trade Cent
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Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.