In May 2000 the U.S. Congress passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which serves to promote the economic and political development of Sub-Saharan African countries. To facilitate this, AGOA encourages Sub-Saharan African countries to work towards good governance, the rule of law, and a market-based economy. This is reflected in the criteria used to assess the eligibility of each country. AGOA also provides eligible countries the opportunity to export goods duty-free and quota-free into the U.S. In turn, this will assist economic development and strengthen U.S.-African trade relations.
In March 2002 Ghana was designated as an eligible country under AGOA. It has also been designated as a Lesser Developed Country which provides Ghana with even greater trade benefits. More specifically, as a Lesser Developed Country, organizations such as Women in Progress have the ability to export hand-made apparel sewn from the cloth of any country. As it is difficult to get cloth locally, this extended benefit serves Women in Progress well.
Under the current legislation, the benefit to Lesser Developed Countries only extends until September 30, 2004. Fortunately, a new bill called AGOA Bill III is currently before Congress, and it proposes to extend the benefit until September 30, 2007. The additional time would help Women in Progress to jump start our full-scale exporting program. Thus, we are hopeful that the new deadline will be extended.