US President Biden to strike Uganda, Gabon off Agoa access

US President Joe Biden signaled further trouble for Uganda, listing the East African country alongside Gabon, Niger and the Central African Republic (CAR) as countries he intends to strike off them the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), starting with January 1, 2024.

Former US president Bill Clinton introduced the Agoa, as a special vehicle to promote the US-Africa trade on October 2, 2000, and designated many Sub–saharan countries eligible to benefit from duty free access to US markets for more than 1,800 products from Africa.

Twenty three years later, Biden says some countries in Africa do not qualify on account of their human rights records.

“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda do not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the Agoa,” Biden said.

“Despite intensive engagement between the US and the CAR, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda, these countries have failed to address United States’ concerns about their non-compliance with the Agoa eligibility criteria,” Biden also said in a letter addressed to the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

While Niger and Gabon are accused of violating human rights and democratic principles because of the coups that have taken place in the countries, Uganda is accused of a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which was passed in May this year.

After the passing of the law by parliament in May, Biden called for its immediate repeal.

US President Biden to strike Uganda, Gabon off Agoa access

“The enactment of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act is a tragic violation of universal human rights. No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or be subjected to violence and discrimination. It is wrong,” Biden said, adding that the law would affect Uganda-US relations. 

Biden also announced that his administration would consider slapping sanctions on Uganda and restricting the entry into the US of people engaging in human rights abuses or corruption.

Uganda officials brushed off the threats with President Yoweri Museveni saying the law was needed to prevent LGBTQ community members from recruiting others.

“The signing is finished, nobody will move us,” Museveni told lawmakers from his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in June.

Museveni has repeatedly told the US to stop the intimidation and respect Uganda’s sovereignty.

However, in a show of determination to punish the country over the law, the US has issued two advisories in the last four months, the recent one being a warning to businesspeople and US companies working or dealing with Uganda.

Uganda’s export to the US under Agoa has been growing over the years, growing to about $180 million in 2021. Uganda exports Coffee, Vanilla, mushroom spawn and other crops to the US.