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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 2012, eight of the twenty fastest growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa according to the IMF.

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 August 2012, legislation was enacted to extend AGOA’s important third country fabric provision to 2015. Thirty-nine sub-Saharan African countries currently qualify for AGOA benefits. The Africa Office works closely with other U.S. agencies, such as USAID. This includes USAID funding to support the work of the three African Regional Trade Hubs located in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; 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) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with six sub-Saharan African partners.  USTR’s Africa Office is also leading U.S. efforts to forge a new trade and investment partnership with the East African Community – where the two parties have agreed to explore a regional investment treaty, a trade facilitation agreement, and a commercial dialogue.

The Africa Office also will help to implement President Obama’s new initiative, Trade Africa which was announced during his trip Africa in June 2013. This new partnership between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa will seek to increase internal and regional trade within Africa and expand economic ties between Africa, the United States and other global markets. Trade Africa will initially focus on the member states of the East African Community (EAC) and aims to double intra-regional trade in the EAC and increase EAC exports to the United States by 40%. The United States also hopes to expand its collaboration with other regional economic communities in Africa, including in cooperation with other partner nations.

The Africa Office maintains an ongoing dialogue with sub-Saharan African countries on issues related to the WTO Doha negotiations. It also 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 has a $37 billion in total (two ways) goods trade with SubSaharan Africa countries during 2015.  Goods exports totaled $18 billion; Goods imports totaled $19 billion.  The U.S. goods and trade deficit with SubSaharan Africa countries was $1 billion in 2015.

According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of Goods to SubSaharan Africa countries supported an estimated 121 thousand jobs in 2014 (latest data available).


  • U.S. goods exports to SubSaharan Africa in 2015 were $17.8 billion, down 30.0% ($7.7 billion) from 2014, and up 75% from 2005. U.S. goods exports to SubSaharan Africa accounted for 1.2% of total U.S. goods exports in 2015.
  • Roughly 31% of U.S. exports to SubSaharan Africa went to South Africa in 2015, and 19% went to Nigeria.  The top U.S. export markets in SubSaharan Africa for 2015 were: South Africa ($5.5 billion), Nigeria ($3.4 billion), Ethiopia ($1.6 billion), Angola ($1.2 billion), and Kenya ($937 million).
  • The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2015 were: Machinery ($3.5 billion), Aircraft ($2.6 billion), Vehicles ($2.2 billion), Mineral Fuel (oil) ($1.2 billion), and Electrical Machinery ($990 million).
  • U.S. domestic exports of agricultural products to SubSaharan Africa totaled $1.8 billion in 2015.  Leading categories include: wheat ($621 million), poultry meat ($302 million), coarse grains ($88 million), processed food ($87 million), and pulses ($84 million).


  • U.S goods imports from SubSaharan Africa totaled $18.9 billion in 2015, a 29.6% decrease ($7.9 billion) from 2014, and down 63% from 2005.  U.S. imports from SubSaharan Africa accounted for 0.8% of total goods imports in 2015.
  • Approximately 39% of U.S. imports from SubSaharan Africa were from South Africa and 15% from Angola.  The top U.S. import suppliers from SubSaharan Africa for 2015 were: South Africa ($7.3 billion), Angola ($2.8 billion), Nigeria ($1.9 billion), Chad ($1.3 billion), and Cote d’ Ivoire ($1.0 billion).
  • The five largest import categories in 2015 were: Mineral Fuel (crude) ($6.6 billion), Precious Stones (platinum and diamonds) ($2.9 billion), Vehicles ($1.5 billion), Cocoa ($1.2 billion), and Iron and Steel ($662 million).
  • U.S. imports for consumption of agricultural products from SubSaharan Africa totaled $2.3 billion in 2015.  Leading categories include: cocoa beans ($984 million), coffee (unroasted) ($265 million), tree nuts ($186 million), cocoa paste and cocoa butter ($166 million), and spices ($138 million).

Trade Balance

  • The U.S. goods trade deficit with SubSaharan Africa was $1.0 billion in 2015, a 20.3% decrease ($61 million) over 2014.  


AGOA imports for 2013 totaled $26.8 billion, more than four times the amount in 2001. Petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of AGOA imports with an 86 percent share of overall AGOA imports. AGOA non-oil imports were $4.8 billion in 2013, more than triple the amount in 2001. Several non-oil sectors experienced sizable increases during this period, including apparel, footwear, vehicles and parts, and fruits and nuts. South Africa is the largest non-oil AGOA beneficiary.

Top AGOA suppliers were Nigeria ($11.7 billion; mainly crude oil), Angola ($8.7 billion; mainly crude oil), South Africa, ($8.5 billion; mainly vehicles and parts, iron/steel, fruits and nuts), Chad ($2.6 billion; mainly crude oil), and the Congo ($1.2 billion; mainly crude oil). Other leading AGOA beneficiaries included the Gabon, Lesotho, Kenya, Mauritius, and Cameroon.

Leading AGOA import categories were Crude Oil ($30.1 billion; down 38%), Transportation Equipment ($2.1 billion), Minerals and Metals ($865.5 million; down 15%), Textile and Apparel ($815.3 million; down 5%), Agricultural Products ($520.8 million, up 28%), and Chemicals and Related Products ($428.8 million, down 9%).