The 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade conference wrapped up in Nairobi on Thursday with a call for African governments to take advantage of the new U.S. government's goodwill to explore possibilities of extending the protocol beyond its 2015 expiry date.
Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who officially closed the three-day conference whose theme was "Realizing the Full Potential of AGOA through Expansion of Trade and Investment", said the move would enhance and safeguard the benefits already accrued from the arrangement.
"This will certainly require a tenacious resolve to implement bold and effective strategies to promote increased U.S. investment and capital flows to Africa," Musyoka told the conference that brought together participants from the United States led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the countries from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Musyoka, however, reiterated that the onus of developing Africa rests with the Africans particularly through the increasing intra-state trade and strengthening of regional economic blocs to tap on the ready market, enhance competition as well as diversify and add value to goods and services.
"The United States has itself recognized this challenge, and is providing crucial assistance to regional blocs for building their capacities for trade. This crucial support should be extended as it is essential for strengthening AGOA as well as Africa's integration into the global economy," he said.
Musyoka challenged African governments, policymakers and the private sector to come up with new strategies of increasing trade among African nations which he noted has a huge market base of 850million-plus people.
"Indeed the need for paradigm shift towards intra-Africa trade cannot be overemphasized considering that trade among Africans remain pitifully dismal despite the huge market. This should prick our collective conscience as governments, policymakers and the private sector," Musyoka noted.
The vice president termed the conference as an opportunity for reinvigorating trade for faster economic growth and strengthening Afro-U.S. ties, noting that it was held against a background that the world is fighting the global financial crunch.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said by strengthening AGOA more jobs and investment opportunities for Africans and Americans could be created.
Kenyan Trade Minister Amos Kimunya who addressed the occasion said there is need to provide substantial resources for capacity building to be used for research especially to the agricultural sector.
Meanwhile, Musyoka has emphasized on the need for leaders to embark on healing and reconciliation process as the only way to unite the people of this country.
"This is our country and we must be ready to embrace dialogue, healing and reconciliation so that we can promote peace and development," Musyoka said.
The vice president said it is high time Kenyans solve their own problems instead of relying on outsiders to do so for them.
He said the recent move taken by the Cabinet to opt for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and local courts as the mechanisms to deal with the chaos that followed the disputed 2007 presidential polls is not final.
"What the Cabinet discussed was not final and that we still have a room for discussion until we come up with ways that can satisfy the people of Kenya. What I want to urge Kenyans is not to lose hope," Musyoka added.