US President Joe Biden has made a significant move that has raised concerns in Uganda, listing the East African nation alongside Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic (CAR) as countries he intends to remove from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) on January 1, 2024.
Agoa, introduced by former US President Bill Clinton on October 2, 2000, was created as a unique vehicle to boost US-Africa trade by designating numerous Sub-Saharan countries as eligible for duty-free access to US markets for over 1,800 products from Africa.
However, two decades later, President Biden has expressed concerns about certain African countries’ human rights records, leading to the decision to disqualify them from Agoa benefits.
“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda do not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the Agoa,” Biden stated.
Biden also conveyed in a letter addressed to the speaker of the US House of Representatives that “these countries have failed to address United States’ concerns about their non-compliance with the Agoa eligibility criteria.”
While Niger and Gabon are accused of violating human rights and democratic principles due to recent coups in those countries, Uganda faces allegations regarding its controversial anti-homosexuality law, passed in May of the current year.
In the wake of Uganda’s parliamentary approval of this law, President Biden called for its immediate repeal, asserting that “the enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or be subjected to violence and discrimination.”
He went on to emphasize that this law would have repercussions for Uganda-US relations. Furthermore, the Biden administration indicated that it would consider imposing sanctions on Uganda and restricting the entry into the US of individuals involved in human rights abuses or corruption.
Ugandan officials have downplayed these threats, with President Yoweri Museveni asserting that the law was necessary to prevent members of the LGBTQ community from recruiting others. Museveni reaffirmed his stance by stating, “The signing is finished, nobody will move us.”
The Ugandan government has repeatedly called on the US to stop what they perceive as intimidation and to respect Uganda’s sovereignty.
In response, the US has issued two advisories in the last four months, with the most recent one warning businesspeople and US companies working with or dealing with Uganda.
Uganda’s exports to the US under Agoa have been on the rise, reaching approximately $180 million in 2021. The nation exports products such as coffee, vanilla, mushroom spawn, and other crops to the US.
This decision to revoke Agoa benefits could have significant economic implications for Uganda.