Zuma: Agoa renewal has immense benefits for SA

Washington - A commitment for the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) was secured at the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

"We successfully conveyed the message that South Africa's graduation from Agoa would damage the African Union's regional integration initiatives, as well as industries in neighbouring countries that benefit from South Africa's manufacturing capability," he said in a statement.

"Benefits to South Africa are immense, we can only trust that this matter will be concluded successfully and to mutual benefit."

Zuma left Washington on Wednesday, just after the conclusion of discussions between more than 40 African leaders and the US.

The summit, which was the first of its kind, was initiated by US President Barack Obama after his visit to the continent last year.

Agoa is a non-reciprocal prefer trial scheme, which applies only to US imports from eligible sub-Saharan African countries.

It is an act of the US Congress, which will decide next year whether to renew it. South Africa wants it renewed for another 15 years.

While in Washington, Zuma and some of his cabinet ministers met three US senators, Senate foreign relations committee chairperson Robert Menendez, House of Representatives foreign affairs committee chairperson Ed Royce, and Senate foreign relations Africa subcommittee chairperson Chris Coons.

Zuma was accompanied to the summit by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, the Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

He said the summit had rescaled the relationship between Africa and the US.

The summit discussed issues relating to boosting trade and investment, cooperation on matters of peace, security and governance.

"There had been a good relationship already between Africa and the US, but this summit has reshaped it and has taken it to another level.

"There are many opportunities for further development of this relationship and we look forward to further engagement, especially since we agreed to another summit to take matters forward," he said.

Zuma welcomed the indication of support for African peacekeeping and peace-making mechanisms.

He said Africa has secure buy-in from the US for peace and security initiatives on the continent, including support for the African Standby Force.

"They understand our position very clearly that we want support but that this process must be African-led and African-controlled.

SA soldiers to CAR

"As President Obama said, the boots must be African. We believe we are finding one another on these matters," said Zuma.

City Press reported on Sunday that the SA National Defence Force would be sending soldiers back to the CAR as early as October as part of the AU's African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises Other African countries have also signed up to put their armies on standby, in case of a crisis.

According to the report, they would be getting help from the controversial US Africa Command with equipment and possibly transport, as most of the African continent's armies are short of funds. This was set to be finalised at the summit.

However, not all African countries are happy with Africom's involvement.

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