One hundred entrepreneurs participated in the Hub’s AGOA Preparedness Workshop on May 26 in Kampala, Uganda. The atmosphere was high energy and collaborative. Colorful baskets, designer sandals and specialty food products lined the room. Uganda’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde, visited every display. Hon. Kyambadde launched the workshop by congratulating the entrepreneurs for their contributions to Uganda’s economic growth and by listing examples of what the Ugandan government is doing to make export easier.
Uganda AGOA Presidential Advisor Susan Muhwezi asked those who were already exporting to the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to stand up. The rest of the room clapped. “These are the people you want to network with,” said Ms. Muhwezi.
Uganda has been slow to capitalize on AGOA. In 2015, the total value of AGOA exports from Uganda to the U.S. was less than $200,000. “Ugandan can and should benefit more from AGOA,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Mark Messick in his opening remarks. Based on workshop attendance, Ugandan entrepreneurs certainly seem eager to do so. “I want to take advantage of the ten year extension,” said Sarah Nakisanze of Easy Afric Designs. Ms. Nakisanze currently exports her bark cloth and raffia wallets and handbags to Europe. She wants to figure out a way to get her costs down so she can be more competitive in the U.S.
The Hub’s AGOA Preparedness Workshop provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn from one another and from the government officials and industry specialists in their home country. The workshop also sets the record straight on AGOA – eligible products (nearly 7,000), duty-free advantages, and the paperwork needed for certified export.
Meg Hilbert Jaquay of Jakana Fruits, a workshop panelist and organic certified dried fruit exporter, stressed the need for collaboration. “We are not competitors. We are allies for Uganda business. If I do something to help my business; it’s going to help your business.” Ms. Hilbert Jaquay then showed a resealable stand up pouch that she now manufactures locally to reduce costs. The pouch ensures long shelf life and is crucial for maintaining quality and competitiveness for export. Jakana Fruits is already exporting to the U.S.
With help from the Hub, USAID, and committed local governments, expect to see more East African products entering the U.S. duty free through AGOA.