This evening I was honored to be among those joining President Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act in strengthened form for an unprecedented ten years.
On the eve of his fourth official visit to Africa, President Obama reiterated his belief that Africa is the world’s next major economic success story and his commitment to seeing that the United States is a partner in that success.
This was a historic moment for all of us who are committed to making sure that today’s Africa Rising narrative is not a passing meme but a solid and lasting reality – and one in which the United States will continue to play a substantial, constructive and expanding role.
Reaching this moment was not easy. There were times it seemed AGOA’s reauthorization might get lost in the press of other priorities and debates. But what was true when the Act first passed in 2000 remains as true, if not truer, than ever. The support for this cornerstone of our relationship with Africa and its people is as close to unanimous as it is possible to get in Washington.
Congress is to be congratulated for once again coming together to give the president of the day the tools required to help our African partners unleash the enormous potential of their continent while simultaneously growing new markets and opportunities for our own businesses, investors and entrepreneurs.
I would like in particular to thank Congressman Charlie Rangel, the visionary behind, and original co-author of, AGOA; House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce, also an original co-author; and the ranking Democrat on the House Africa subcommittee, Rep. Karen Bass.
I also laud the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch, who remained faithful to the pledge he made to me, Ambassador John Price and friends of Africa in Utah last year. AGOA would not, of course, be possible without the strong and consistent support of Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. Christopher Coons. African leaders, and their Ambassadors, many of whom have been active on AGOA since its inception in 1996, also deserve much credit.
President Obama heads to Kenya and Ethiopia this week having met with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on Monday. He goes armed with proof that Americans are united in the desire to see the nations of Africa thrive as fully integrated members of the global economy. We join in wishing him every success.