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Despite figures released by International Trade Administration Department of the US cChamber of Commerce showing Ethiopia’s exports to the US steadily increasing for the past couple of years and reaching almost USD 144.5 million in 2011 the amount that the US exports into Ethiopia is still staggering by comparison.
Over the past three years US exports to Ethiopia have nearly tripled. In 2009 US export figures were about USD 270 million, before jumping to USD 773.2 million in 2010 and USD 690 million in 2011.
The tiny Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and the landlocked southern African country of Lesotho, which is surrounded completely by South Africa, exported a much more impressive amount during the same time frame.
Mauritius’ exports increased by 27.5 percent in 2011, reaching USD 250.3 million, while Lesotho had a 28.6 percent increase in exports to reach an impressive USD 384.4 million.
Most of these two nation’s exports have come from knit and woven textiles, which is something Ethiopia hopes to emulate. Ethiopia hopes to earn up to a billion dollars in textile exports by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan in 2015.
Niger, the landlocked West African country which has had drought related problems and another West African country, Liberia, which for almost a decade was in the throes of an on and off war also showed similarly impressive, albeit inconsistent export growth.
Niger had a more than 11 fold increase in exports in 2011 at 288.7 USD million. Liberia experienced about a USD 32 million decline in exports in 2011 but in 2010 they were 180 USD million which was still more than twice the numbers of Liberia’s exports to the US in 2009.
Niger’s stunning rebound was helped by the lifting of sanctions on the country in 2010 after the overthrow of the previous president Mamadou Tandja.
US imports from SSA in 2011 in total reached USD 74.2 billion, roughly a 14 percent increase; the same proportion as imports from elsewhere in the world which increased by 15 percent.
Nearly USD 52 billion of imports to the US were a result of AGOA, a cool 34 percent increase from the previous year.
However the figures for US imports were still dominated by mineral imports which consisted of about USD 60 billion of the USD 74.2 billion in imports, while four of the five import partners in SSA had an overwhelming share of oil imports.
The four were Nigeria at USD 33.8 billion, the largest exporter SSA country to the US, Angola at USD 13.8 billion, Gabon at USD 4.4 billion and one of the newest oil producing countries in Africa, Chad at USD 3.2 billion.
The exception was South Africa standing at USD 9.5 billion with its diverse exports to the US consisting of such commodities as precious stones, vehicles, iron and steel.
While US exports to Ethiopia were very substantial, US export figures for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), mainly to mineral and oil producing countries like Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, with the exception of South Africa, drastically eclipsed its export figures to Ethiopia.
US exports to SSA in 2011 were worth nearly USD 21.1 billion in 2011 and almost USD four billion over the previous year. Although it’s still a tiny share of its export market, the 23 percent increase in US exports were in stark contrast to the only 15 percent growth in US exports elsewhere in the world. The exports to SSA were dominated by Airplanes, machines, vehicles, mineral fuels and cereals.
Despite Ethiopia’s steady growth in exports to the US, its percentage of growth is puzzling in light of the preferential trade agreement called the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) enacted by the US in 2000 to help sub-Saharan Africa export more to the US. A greater growth percentage was exhibited by far smaller nations in addition to the expected oil producing nations.