Organized by the Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Hub, the show gave President Bush a chance to mingle with close to 20 vendors from 8 African countries. Products ranged from glassware and candles to animal hide and colorful fabrics.
All are eligible for duty-free exports to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) passed by Congress in 2001. Managed by Chemonics, the Gaborone-based Global Competitiveness Hub works with government, private sector, and civil society organizations to expand trade opportunities under AGOA.
During his July 10, 2003, visit, President Bush was joined by President Festus Mogae of Botswana and both First Ladies as they were guided through the exhibit by Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, chief executive officer of the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority.
Press reports indicate the tour had a positive impact on the President. “The encounter stayed with Bush, who that night told senior aides that it’s one thing to talk about global economics and trade but quite another to see for oneself the effects of policy on people’s lives,” said a July 13 Los Angeles Times report.
Chemonics played an instrumental role in organizing the show on short notice. Hub staff invited the owners or top managers of 18 companies and associations from 8 AGOA-eligible southern African countries. Chemonics helped vendors bring their products to Botswana and decorate the exhibits with vivid backdrops, flags, and flowers.
Exhibitors included weavers, pottery and glass makers, floral producers, artisans, and mango growers from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. The show featured products that are either being exported or have a high potential for export to the United States and Europe.
During the 25-minute tour, President Bush stopped at every exhibit, eying traditional hand weaving looms and talking to African women as they worked. Several vendors expressed their thanks for AGOA and the support they have received from the Hub in exporting their products.
They shared anecdotes about how this assistance has made a difference in their lives, helping them expand their businesses and increase their income. White House staff then invited the exhibitors to a luncheon with the President.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and other White House staff also took part in a separate tour of the exhibit. They were guided by Sophia Maryogo, chairwoman of the Artisan Development Agency of Tanzania. By all accounts, they were similarly impressed with the range of products offered by African vendors and touched by their personal success stories.
Under the motto “making trade happen,” the Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Hub is helping entrepreneurs in 14 African countries navigate the complexities of trade regulations to market and sell their products to the United States and beyond.
The effort is part of a U.S. initiative launched in 2001 that established three regional trade centers serving sub-Saharan Africa — in Botswana, Ghana, and Kenya.
Chemonics oversees southern Africa activities through the Gaborone-based hub under a five-year indefinite quantity contract known as RAPID. The firm also manages a trade hub serving 21 countries in East and Central Africa through a one-year task order under the SEGIR General Business, Trade, and Investment contract.
Find out more about the Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Hub