via US think tank advocates Zim re-engagement | The Herald October 16, 2015
A HIGHLY-influential US think tank — the Brookings Institution — has called for the redefinition of business relations with Zimbabwe, saying Harare must benefit under Washington’s Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
Enacted in 2000, AGOA provides 39 African countries tariff-free access to American markets.
Dr Witney Schneidman, a fellow with the Brookings Institution and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Bill Clinton administration, said he was unhappy with Zimbabwe’s exclusion from AGOA.
He made the remarks during a round-table discussion with journalists on Tuesday.
“Zimbabwe has not been at the forefront of the US-African relationship . . . it should not be like that . . . the cost of not being part of AGOA is high,” he said
The American President has the right to limit access to the programme by African countries if certain conditions are not met.
Dr Schneidman pledged to engage the US Congress over Zimbabwe’s exclusion.
“Personally, I think Zimbabwe should be part of AGOA, but it is not. I will go to Congress and urge them to look more carefully; now that we have language that is more flexible, maybe it is possible to make exceptions for power manufacturers, agriculture producers or horticulture companies to be allowed to participate in AGOA as part of creative ways to revitalise the commercial relationship while addressing those deeper issues that relate to governance.”
He noted that currently some Zimbabwean companies were benefiting from AGOA through third parties.
“Some Zimbabwean companies are part of the supply chains that are passing products to companies in the region that export under AGOA. But there is no commercial value to Zimbabwe,” said Dr Scheidman.
According to the US State Department, as of June 2015 total African exports under AGOA reached $450 billion.
“I have always seen Zimbabwe as a country of great potential. We should look for new ways to communicate and understand each other,” Dr Scheidman said.
He cited vast natural resources, educated population and infrastructure as some of the advantages Zimbabwe has over other African countries.
“What has been important is understanding Zimbabwe’s competitiveness and encouraging business to speak with a voice that can help government think through the tough challenges of economic development to attract other business into the country. Nobody is a better reference for investing in Zimbabwe than people who are doing business here,” Dr Scheidman said.