Three years after it got suspended from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the Trump administration, the Cameroonian government entered talks with the US, under the new administration, for its reintegration.
As a reminder, the suspension was pronounced in October 2019 when the then-US President, Donald Trump, accused Cameroon of “persistent gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” in the context of the fight against armed groups in the Anglophone regions. Although Cameroonian authorities denied these allegations, the suspension took effect on January 1, 2020.
“The Cameroonian government acknowledges that as Cameroon’s eligibility for AGOA was a sovereign decision of the U.S. government, the decision to cut the benefits of this vehicle to Cameroon also remains an act of sovereignty that no one can oppose. However, we do not agree with the reasons put forward by the US government to explain or justify the decision,” the Minister of Communication said during a press conference on November 18, 2019. Rene Emmanuel Sadi believes that either the then US administration did not have enough information about the actual situation, as it has prevailed and still prevails in the Northwest and Southwest, or chose to ignore it.
A rather bearable “sanction”
“We are working to address, in a very transparent and open manner, all the relevant issues that have been raised,” said Finance Minister Alamine Ousmane Mey. According to him, AGOA was just as beneficial for Cameroon as it was for the United States. However, based on official statistics and given the categorization of Cameroonian exports to the US, Cameroon’s withdrawal from AGOA has been bearable for the country.
Indeed, according to figures from the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, only $63 million of Cameroon’s $220 million in total exports to the U.S. were made under AGOA in 2018. And 90% of exports under this preferential regime during the same year consisted of crude oil, only. This means that even before it got suspended, Cameroon made very little use of AGOA for its exports to the United States. In detail, only around 28.3% of Cameroonian exports to the US were made under the vehicle.
Better still, the National Institute of Statistics (INS) reported that between January and September 2022, crude oil exports, which were the main export via AGOA, grew by 64.8% year-on-year. This generated 44.8% of the country’s export earnings during the period.
Brice R. Mbodiam