The African Growth and Opportunity Act's (AGOA) main purpose is to bring African countries into the global market. The success of the program has not only increased African exports into the U.S., but has provided the relationships necessary for American businesses to export to African countries.
In 2008, U.S. total imports from sub-Saharan Africa were more than four times the amount in 2001 - exceeding $86 billion - while U.S. total exports to sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled during this period, reaching $18.6 billion.
Companies across America have been taking advantage of AGOA to expand and grow. Among those companies is American Augers Inc., of West Salem, Ohio. American Augers Inc. took advantage of the success of the program in 2005 by contacting the U.S. Commercial Services office of the Department of Commerce to find out how they could expand into the South African market. The manufacturing company, a unit of Astec Underground of Loudon, Tennessee, worked with the local Commercial Services office to provide opportunities for the Astec Underground organization as a whole. The office contacted potential agents interested in working with U.S. companies, and meetings were put in place for Astec.
Dan Sharpe, Astec's Vice President of Sales and Marketing, took the opportunity to travel to South Africa and meet with the business leaders. The trip was a success, and Dan signed an international manufacturer's representative agreement.
The company is now working to expand across the continent through participation in programs like the World Bank's $500 Million (USD) project to connect all of Africa with fiber optic cable.
"Our products, both HDD and Trenchers are ideal for the laying of fiber optic cable, and with our dealer in place we are in a perfect position to have our products provide this valuable service in laying the fiber optic infrastructure for Africa," he says. "We are very excited and pleased with the opportunities that lay ahead, not only for us, but for our South African dealer, overall African customers, and the future of the African economy.
"Our export sales to South Africa have contributed to our company's overall export growth, enabling us to add new jobs at our factory in West Salem, Ohio; and Loudon, Tennessee," Sharpe continued. "With more exports, we hope to see even more job growth in the future."
Ambassador Kirk believes that "when we work to strengthen our partners, we strengthen America and the world economy." The story of Astec Underground and American Augers is just one example of how trade can help grow the world economy.