United States President Joe Biden has ordered the scrapping of Uganda from the list of Sub-Saharan countries benefiting from African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA provides sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 1,800 products.
“I have determined that the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda do not meet the requirements described in the Trade Act,” said Biden in a statement issued by the White House on December 29, 2023.
“Accordingly, I have decided to terminate the designations of the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries for purposes of section 506A of the Trade Act, effective January 1, 2024,.”
Last year, President Biden determined that Uganda does not currently meet the criterion of countries benefiting from AGOA due to reports of human rights abuses and was therefore set to lose its eligibility for AGOA benefits, effective January 1, 2024.
However, in a letter dated October 31, 2023, Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Office of the President, wrote to Uganda’s Trade Minister Francis Mwebesa, saying, “It is still possible with urgent action for Uganda to retain its eligibility for AGOA benefits if 1) your government publicly releases an action plan on addressing human rights concerns; and 2) the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) is repealed.”
Uganda maintains the Anti-homosexuality law, which is being challenged in Uganda’s Constitutional Court, is meant to protect the African traditional marriage system and cultural values.
The scrapping of AGOA benefits will mostly hurt local entrepreneurs who have been exporting their merchandise to the United States.
According to official statistics, by the close of 2021, Uganda’s exports to the United States courtesy of AGOA stood at a paltry $5.1million (about Shs20 billion).
Late last year, President Museveni sent a special message to Biden about AGOA, Anti-Homosexuality law and the human rights situation in Uganda.
The U.S. government recently announced expanded visa restrictions against Ugandan officials suspected of ‘undermining the democratic process’ in the East African country.
This was the third raft of measures against Uganda following the violent 2021 elections and the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The American Government has since discouraged their companies from investing in Uganda.