USTR's Office of African Affairs develops and coordinates U.S. trade and investment policy for the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa.  It leads the negotiation and implementation of U.S. trade and investment policies and objectives in the region.  The Administration seeks both to expand markets for U.S. goods and services in sub-Saharan Africa and to facilitate efforts to bolster  African economic development through increased global, regional, and bilateral trade.  Sub-Saharan Africa presents many opportunities for U.S. businesses as an emerging market for American exports.  In 2017, seven of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa according to the IMF.  To that end, the Africa Office also will help to implement the Trump Administration’s vision to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement with a sub-Saharan African country that could serve as model for others in the region.

The Africa Office oversees implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference program enacted in 2000 that is at the center of U.S.-African engagement on trade and investment. By providing duty-free entry into the United States for almost all African products, AGOA has helped expand and diversify African exports to the United States, while at the same time fostering an improved business environment in many African countries through eligibility requirements.  In 2015, the U.S. Congress extended AGOA through 2025, the longest extension of the program.  Thirty-nine sub-Saharan African countries currently qualify for AGOA benefits.  The Africa Office works closely with other U.S. agencies, such as USAID, MCC, OPIC, EXIM, and TDA.  This includes USAID funding to support the work of the three African Regional Trade Hubs located in Accra, Ghana; Pretoria, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya.

The Africa Office also leads U.S. Government interagency engagement with sub-Saharan African partners on trade and investment issues, including under our eleven trade and investment framework agreements (TIFAs) with sub-Saharan African countries and regional economic organizations.  The United States also has a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement with the five countries of the Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland), a Trade and Investment Partnership with East Africa Community (EAC) partner states, and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with six sub-Saharan African partners. 

The Africa Office maintains an ongoing dialogue with sub-Saharan African countries and works closely with other Africa trade policy stakeholders, including Members of Congress, the African and American private sectors, and civil society in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade Data

The United States had a $40.9 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with Sub-Saharan African countries during 2018. Goods exports totaled $15.8 billion; goods imports totaled $25.1 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Sub-Saharan African countries was $9.2 billion in 2018.


  • U.S. goods exports to Sub-Saharan African countries in 2018 were $15.9 billion, up 12.8% ($1.8 billion) from 2017 but down 14.1% from 2008. U.S. exports to the Sub-Saharan African countries account for 1.0% of overall U.S. exports in 2018. 
  • The top 5 U.S. export markets in the Sub-Saharan African countries for 2018 were: South Africa ($5.5 billion), Nigeria ($2.7 billion), Ethiopia ($1.3 billion), Ghana ($769 million), and Togo ($642 million).
  • The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2018 were: machinery ($2.6 billion), vehicles ($2.3 billion), aircraft ($2.2 billion), mineral fuels ($1.9 billion), and electrical machinery ($748 million).


  • U.S. goods imports from Sub-Saharan African countries in 2018 were $25.1 billion, up 0.9% ($218 million) from 2017, but down 70.9% from 2008. U.S. imports from the Sub-Saharan African countries account for 1.0% of overall U.S. imports in 2018.  
  • The top 5 U.S. import suppliers from the Sub-Saharan African countries for 2018 were: South Africa ($8.5 billion), Nigeria ($5.6 billion), Angola ($2.7 billion), Cote d'Ivoire ($1.2 billion), and Madagascar ($892 million).
  • The top import categories (2-digit HS) in 2018 were: mineral fuels ($10.3 billion), precious metal and stone (platinum, diamonds) ($4.9 billion), cocoa ($949 million), coffee, tea & spice (coffee) ($855 million), and iron and steel ($807 million).

Trade Balance

  • The U.S. goods trade deficit with Sub-Saharan African countries was $9.2 billion in 2018, a 14.5% decrease ($1.6 billion) over 2017.


AGOA (including GSP) imports for 2018 totaled $12 billion, up 46 percent compared to 2001 (the first full-year of AGOA trade). Petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of AGOA imports with a 67 percent share of overall AGOA imports. AGOA non-oil imports were $4.0 billion in 2018, about triple the amount in 2001. Several non-oil sectors experienced sizable increases during this period, including apparel, auto parts, macadamia nuts, jewelry, fresh oranges, and footwear. South Africa is the largest non-oil AGOA beneficiary.

Top AGOA suppliers were Nigeria ($5.8 billion; mostly crude oil), South Africa, ($2.4 billion; mostly vehicles and parts, fruits, and nuts), Angola ($2.1 billion; mostly crude oil), Chad ($601 million; mostly crude oil), Kenya ($470 million; mostly apparel, macadamia nuts, cut flowers), Ghana ($357 million; mostly oil and cocoa products), and Lesotho ($319.6 million; mostly apparel). Other leading AGOA beneficiaries included Republic of the Congo ($277 million; mostly oil), Cote d'Ivoire ($218 million; mostly oil and cocoa products), Madagascar ($193 million; mostly apparel), Ethiopia ($159 million; mostly apparel and footwear), and Mauritius ($156 million; mostly apparel).

In 2018, leading AGOA import categories were Crude Oil ($8.0 billion in 2018; down 13.6% from 2017), Textiles and Apparel ($1.2 billion; up 18.4%), Minerals and Metals ($728 million; down 12.3%), Transportation Equipment ($697 million; down 47.4%), Agricultural Products ($597 million, up 8.0%), and Chemicals and Related Products ($486 million, up 51.9%).