Identifying strategic needs and priorities through strategic approaches can bolster beneficiary countries’ utilization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and help assess challenges to expanding exports, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a recent report.

The U.S. government has acknowledged the importance of providing trade capacity building assistance in support of AGOA, the report states, and U.S. agencies have obligated approximately $5 billion in such assistance for AGOA countries over a 13-year period. Lawmakers are now considering a reauthorization of AGOA and have expressed interest in enhancing beneficiaries’ ability to utilize the program and ensuring that TCB assistance is aligned with program objectives.

One way to meet both those objectives, the report holds, is to develop strategies that allow beneficiaries to identify trade barriers that inhibit AGOA utilization and articulate a commitment to addressing these barriers. However, as of December 2014 only 14 of 41 AGOA beneficiaries had such strategies, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has not prioritized the development of such strategies for its three regional trade hubs. The GAO therefore recommends that USAID expand its efforts to help beneficiary governments develop strategic approaches to promoting exports under AGOA, even while noting that a lack of political will may pose challenges to such efforts.

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