After announcing his intention to in October of 2023, US President Joe Biden has officially removed Uganda, along with 3 other African nations, from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after deeming they “do not meet the requirements”.
The act allows participating nations to export product to the US duty free.
The Central African Republic, Niger, and Gabon were also removed from the deal.
Uganda’s removal from the act comes after several months of American political pressure following Ugandan lawmakers passage of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act”, which offers the death penalty for what it refers to as “aggravated homosexuality”.
At the time of the acts passage, Biden condemned the act as a violation of human rights, and has been attempting to pressure Uganda into dropping the bill since. Uganda has rejected all American attempts at political pressure.
While Uganda is by no means dependent on it’s exports to the US applicable to AGOA, it’s annual AGOA exports total 8.2 million dollars, 11.5% of the nations’ 70.7 million in total annual exports to the US. Of the 8.2 million, however, 80% of the exports are agricultural. Agriculture represents 72% of Uganda’s workforce. Due to the disproportionate impact their removal from the deal will have on Uganda’s agriculture industry, experts have warned it could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, as well as a foreign-exchange earnings drought.
Uganda has the potential to rejoin the act, as Mauritania has since its initial removal in 2018, however it would likely mean them getting rid of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which President Yoweri Museveni has thus far shown no intention of doing.
In March of 2023 Uganda’s parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality act. Ugandan law already considered homosexual acts to be illegal, however the act introduces several more restrictions, including the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality”. “Aggravated homosexuality” is defined as “homosexual acts committed by anyone infected with H.I.V. or involving children, disabled people or anyone drugged against their will”. Most of these things are already crimes in Uganda’s legal system, however the bill adds the death penalty if these crimes are committed with someone of the same-sex.
The bill also introduces harsher penalties for homosexual acts. People found to have had gay sex will receive life in prison, meanwhile homosexual relationships carry a 7 year prison term. It further illegalizes simply identifying as gay, emphasizing the “duty” of the community to report LGBT individuals.
Individuals, businesses, publishers, and writers found to be “promoting homosexuality” or advocating for gay rights face a large fine of 1 billion Ugandan shillings, about 264,000$ USD.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act
The African Growth and Opportunity Act establishes the ability for sub-Saharan African countries to export over 1,800 products to the duty free, which is on top of over 5,000 products already duty free under the Generalized System of Preferences program.
The act states is “rigorous eligibility requirements” as “countries must establish or make continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process. Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption, and protect human rights”.
As of 2024, 32 countries are eligible for the act.
The act was originally established in 2000, and while it is set to expire in 2025, US lawmakers have announced their intention to extend it further, as it was extended in 2015 to 2025.
Within the legislation sets that the President has the power to determine which nations are eligible or ineligible, which is how President Biden was able to remove Uganda and the other 3 nations from the act.