Namibia’s Foreign Policy Review The United Nations contribution towards poverty eradication and its role in shaping Foreign PolicyJul 27, 2016
Namibia’s Foreign Policy Review
The United Nations contribution towards poverty eradication and its role in shaping Foreign Policy
Ms. Anita Kiki Gbeho
UN Resident Coordinator &
UNDP Resident Representative to Namibia
This paper focuses on the United Nation’s (UN) contribution to poverty eradication and its role in shaping a country’s Foreign Policy. The paper reviews the historic relationship between the UN and Namibia; provides examples of how the UN has supported global and national poverty eradication efforts and influenced Foreign Policy. Finally, it suggests four pathways on how Namibia’s foreign policy can assist in accelerating development and ultimately eradicating poverty.
Historical context to UN-Namibia relations
The relationship between the United Nations (UN) and Namibia can be traced back to the founding of the organization, when the UN refused to allow South West Africa (SWA), as it was then known, to be annexed by South Africa.
SWA remained central to the UNs deliberations on Southern Africa over the decades, and during this period, the international organization consistently advocated for Namibia’s independence. Actions in this regard included the General Assembly Resolution 2145(XXI) adopted in 1966 that revoked South Africa’s mandate to administer SWA, the 1971 legal opinion of the International Court of Justice that stated the illegal occupation of SWA by South Africa, and Security Council Resolution 435 (1978) that paved the way to Namibia’s independence 10 years later.
Namibia sought and gained its independence through UN support and the organization was influential in the elaboration of Namibia’s Development and Foreign Policy agendas at independence. For example, Article 96 of the Namibia Constitution stipulates that Namibia will: ‘Adopt and maintain a policy of non-alignment; promote international cooperation, peace and security’ which embraces the values and principles that underpin the United Nations Charter. Further, Chapter 3, of the constitution ‘Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms’ links to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UN-Namibia bond has grown and has remained strong over the decades, and currently centers around partnership and cooperation on issues of mutual interest.
The UN’s contribution to poverty eradication
The UN was founded in 1945 after the second world war: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and most pertinent to the discussion in this paper, to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character. 
Since then the UN has made contributions to development thinking through innovative work on economic development and global income distribution, and the development of new perspectives on employment, the informal sector and basic needs. The UN’s contribution to creating an international order to allow national development policies to succeed is particularly notable. In the 1990s an important breakthrough came in the form of thinking on the human development approach which was elaborated in successive human development reports. These reports have evolved continuously and in 2010 the concept of multidimensional poverty was introduced marking a step change in thinking on poverty beyond income based indices.
It is the UN through its set of targeted goals, such as the MDGs and now the SDGs, that has successfully focused attention on poverty eradication, which remains a global challenge and has been the focus of international regional and national action from Agenda 21 to the ‘Future We Want’. The General Assembly, in its 1997 Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, mandated that poverty eradication should be an overriding theme of sustainable development for the coming years. Poverty eradication is one of the fundamental goals of the international community and of the entire United Nations system.
The UN’s 36 Specialized Agencies and Programs have at their core tackling economic and social challenges including the provision of basic services; infrastructure; energy; response to climate change and poverty; promoting the maintenance of peace and security, and upholding Human Rights. The UN system not only supports implementation, but also provides advice and technical expertise.
The United Nations has been at the forefront of addressing global development issues ranging from supporting relief efforts for children following the Second World War to feeding an average of 90 million per year (58 million of whom are children) through the World Food Programme.
Other recent examples of the UNs contribution to poverty reduction include the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (2000), where global leaders agreed common development challenges and resolved to address them through the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs, are credited with mobilizing global action to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half from 1990 to 2010. UNDP facilitated an inter-agency effort to identify MDG bottlenecks and fast track their achievement (the MDG Acceleration Framework). The MDG target on the proportion of people living in extreme poverty was met five years ahead of the target date. Approximately 700 million fewer people lived in extreme poverty conditions in 2010 than in 1990. Africa has gone from an average number of its nations being Least Developed Country (LDC) when the MDGs were signed to the current average being MIC in 2015.
In 2013 alone, 15 million people benefited from social protection schemes in 72 countries. UN efforts enhanced countries' capacities to link labour policies and markets to more inclusive social protection policies. In Mexico for example, UNDP worked with the Government to show that a proposed value added tax would push 14 million people into extreme poverty. The policy advice resulted in more nuanced reforms that minimized burdens on the poor and that balanced economic and social development.
Despite progress on some of the world’s intractable challenges such as poverty reduction, improved provision of social services and the maintenance of international peace and security, there are still pockets of vulnerability that threaten progress.
Poverty and low human development, climate change, population growth and demographic changes, and movement of refugees, continue to remain significant political and economic challenges to sustainable development, particularly for developing countries.
Eradicating poverty is perhaps the greatest global challenge of all.
The United Nations defines poverty ‘as a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity’ meaning a lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. The World Bank (WB) defines poverty in absolute terms. The WB defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day> (PPP), and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day.
An important driver of poverty is the limited effort towards harnessing the demographic dividend in most developing countries. This is again an issue highlighted by the UNFPA analytical work on population issues. At almost 1.8 billion, today’s generation of youth is the largest in history. It is estimated that 89% of the world’s youth live in developing countries, and in many of those countries they constitute over half of the population.
Globally, almost one in every seven youth are looking for work (ILO: 2013), two thirds of youth in developing economies are without work, not studying, or engaged in irregular/informal employment (UNDP: 2014)
The UNs message to policy makers and leaders is clear: young people need to be empowered, educated and employed. If we invest in our young people today, we will harness the rewards tomorrow.
Similarly, the UN continuously advocates that without lasting peace sustainable development cannot be achieved.
Currently there are ten ongoing conflicts on the African continent. Countries such as Somalia, Mali and Nigeria face significant threats of violent extremism. Transnational organized crime is on the rise; in 2012 alone, more than 100 000 people were smuggled out of East Africa.
In conflict affected countries such as South Sudan, the UN system has advocated for peace while providing relief and technical support to people whose livelihoods have been eroded. Through Agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN supported livelihoods of 2.4 million people in 2013 in South Sudan. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ensures that displaced people are protected and provided services. Currently 63.5 million displaced people are being assisted globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides health emergency risk management through developing the capacities of countries in disaster preparedness and response, and direct assistance. During the Ebola virus outbreak 28,616 suspected, confirmed and probable Ebola cases were attended to in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has also supported the post conflict rebuilding process, in countries such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone. In the past 25 years UNDP has supported 20 peace building process in Africa.
UN’s contribution to poverty eradication in Namibia.
Since independence, the United Nations has continued to support Namibia to achieve its developmental goals guided by a Standard Basic Agreement that was signed between the Namibian Government and the United Nations Development Programme in 1990. The thematic areas of support include the Economic Development, Social Progress (including improvements in standard of living) Education, Environment, Health and Governance.
Namibia’s post- independence, efforts at reducing poverty have yielded results and in many cases with the contribution of the development community including the United Nations.
The Country has affected one of the fastest reductions in poverty on the continent: reducing poverty by 41% over two decades. UN support includes examples such as the national School Feeding Programme which was initiated in 1991, with support from the World Food Programme (WFP). The programme was an important milestone not only because of its nutritional benefits, but because it encouraged more children to attend and stay in school, especially those from poor and marginalized households. UNICEF provided the research which made the case for free Universal Primary Education. The Government of Namibia has now gone further and introduced free and universal secondary education in 2016 and Education is recognized in the 4th National Development Plan as a key enabler for development.
In order to reach the most remote communities, UNICEF/WHO/CDC demonstrated the potential of Health Extension Workers to bridge the gap between communities and health facilities. The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) has now rolled this program out in 11 out of 14 regions. With UNICEF support, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI) have cooperated to expand the availability of birth registration services in health facilities, where the vast majority of children are born. This has increased coverage – and a birth certificate is a precondition for access to services, including health and education.
UNDP has helped channel over USD 70 million since the mid-90s to improve national capacity to protect and conserve natural resources, particularly ones that people depend on for daily survival. To date support included; strengthening and expanding the protected areas management systems, improving communal conservancies and, helping Angola, Namibia and South Africa establish the world’s first large marine ecosystem commission. A few milestones include raising the protected areas to 60,000 km2, estimating the value of marine resources at US$269 million per annum and, supporting some 50,000 people to raise resilience to climate change.
Given that Namibia has a very young population (66% under the age of 30) UNFPA has directed their support to the Government of Namibia to ensure that the right investments are made in health, education and skills development in order for the country to reap the dividend of this huge youth bulge.
Namibia is also on track when it comes to the elimination of mother to child transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus, and 84 % of HIV positive people are accessing ARVs. Over the past 15 years HIV new infections have declined by over 50%.
Other significant achievements include improvements in the education sector. Namibia provides free primary and secondary education with the result being that literacy levels between women and men are close, at 78% and 74% respectively. Progress has also been made in primary education enrolment, which currently stands at over 99%.
In 2002, government, with the support of UNESCO-China Funds- in- Trust designed innovative initiatives to enhance the quality of teacher education and professional development. The project aimed to accelerate progress towards the attainment of quality Education for All and to train an adequate number of qualified teachers in Namibia. In 2005, government with the support of the UN developed and implemented the Strategic Plan for the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP). As a result in 2010 1 754 additional children could be accommodated in Grade 8, and 1 933 additional places were created for Grade 11 children in the same year. ETSIP also allowed for the establishment of the first Vision School at Divundu in the Kavango Region, which accommodates gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds; as well as a new vocational training center at Eenhana in north-central Namibia.
In terms of access to basic utilities, 84% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Progress has also been made in the fight against Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB), with malaria mortality and morbidity reduced by over 90 percent since 2000 and TB cases dropping by 22% in 2013. These advancements are a result of political stability, strong macroeconomic frameworks and significant investments in the social sectors of education and health. The UN has contributed through technical support in the development of policy instruments and strategies to support the key government priority sectors including environment, gender, health and education.
The UN through the 2014-18 United Nations Partnership Assistance Framework (UNPAF), continues to provide support in the areas of Poverty, Health, Education and Institutional environment. For example the United Nations through UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA and UNDP is supporting the country to develop accountable and well-coordinated multi-sectoral mechanisms to reduce the burden of priority diseases and conditions, address social, economic and environmental determinants of health and improve health outcomes.
Emerging challenges for Namibia that exacerbate poverty and inequality include economic growth that creates jobs, food security, provision of quality basic services, energy insecurity and climate change. With a Gini coefficient at 0.59, inequality is still high in Namibia. Poverty levels are higher in rural areas as compared to urban centers. Female-headed households, older pensioners and subsistence farmers are disproportionally affected. Namibia is still challenged by stubbornly high maternal deaths and school dropout rates at the grade 10 level average 50%
One in every three people, in Namibia, is unemployed, with youth unemployment as high as 52 per cent. And implementation and coordination gaps still remain at all levels.
The 2015 Global Hunger Index, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute indicates a “serious food problem” in Namibia with 42.8% of Namibians being undernourished.
The Government of Namibia has prioritized the eradication of poverty by 2025; 5 years ahead of the SDGs’ end date. Namibia rightly aims to address long standing issues of inequality, poverty and hunger through mobilizing a wider range of stakeholders, including national and regional government bodies; development partners and private sector operators so that poverty eradication is sustainable.
To achieve its poverty eradication objectives, Namibia has developed crucial frameworks such as the National Development Plan, the Harambee Prosperity Plan and the Blue Print on Wealth Redistribution and Poverty Eradication. These frameworks have learnt from international and national best practice by recognizing the linkages between economic growth and social progress in the fight to eradicate poverty and accelerate development.
Building on its own experience as well as the learning from other developing countries and the successes achieved in poverty reduction globally, there is cause for optimism. A combination of political will, foresight and additional financing, through greater self- reliance and strengthened partnerships will get us there.
Global Development Lessons
Global best practice and research have established that economic growth alone is not sufficient for sustainable and inclusive poverty eradication. Countries that have been able to measure success in this area demonstrate that progress has occurred through strategies which combine economic objectives with social policies in ways that are mutually supportive. This is evident in the case of China and Costa Rica where sustainable and inclusive economic growth was complemented by investments in strengthening human capital and skills development, which in turn created employment opportunities leading to wealth generation.
These countries have demonstrated that growth is inclusive when it takes into account the sectors in which the poor work (e.g. agriculture); occurs in places where the poor live (e.g. undeveloped areas with few resources); uses the factors of production that the poor possess (e.g. unskilled labour); and reduces the prices of consumption items that the poor consume (e.g. food, fuel and clothing). 600 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty in the past 30 years employing such strategies.
Furthermore, employment creation is an important mechanism through which income generated by growth can be widely distributed throughout the populace. Substantial investments in infrastructure, channeling credit to specific productive activities, and the pursuit of well-managed industrial and agricultural policies, as well as social policies that improve the skill levels and welfare of the population have also been ingredients to a successful recipe. Another challenge for Namibia is to ensure that its high unemployment rate of 28%, which adversely affects women and youth, is curtailed through the aforementioned integrated approach and structural transformation of its economy.
Examples from countries such as Brazil and Costa Rica demonstrate the need for policies that contribute to the achievement of poverty reduction for the extreme poor such as social safety nets to address severe poverty and vulnerability.
In Brazil, 20 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2003 and 2010. Much of the credit for this achievement is attributed to three key social policies: cash-transfer programs to the poor, aid to small farmers, and labor and pension reforms. Most prominent among these was the cash-grant program, Bolsa Familia (Family Stipend) supported by UNDP. The government of Brazil also created stronger mechanisms for promoting transparency and accountability in the distribution of these grants.
The role of the UN in shaping Foreign Policy
The UN over the last seventy years has played a significant role in influencing the strategy of Governments in dealing with global challenges, in addition to intergovernmental relations. The UN generates normative ideas and standards, provides a forum for dialogue and bestows international legitimacy to ideas and policies that can then be applied to national and foreign policy. The UN also generates resources to pursue policies.
No country can address these challenges in isolation; nor is any country directly or indirectly immune to them. However, through the UN, countries have and continue to play a strategic role in shaping rules and influencing outcomes.
Recent examples of the normative role the UN has played in developing ground-breaking agreements include the new framework for financing for development, articulated in the Addis Ababa Agenda for Action; the visionary Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, calling for eradicating poverty and inequality. World leaders concluded the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which along with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction signals their commitment to unified action to pressing environmental challenges.
For the first time, the agreements in Addis Ababa, New York, Paris and Sendai wove together interdependent strands of development: to address challenges to people, planet, good governance, and the requisite financing mechanisms.
Regarding Peace and Security there are several examples of UN support. In addition to the role the UN played in ‘birthing’ Namibia, the United Nations brokered talks with Indonesia and Portugal aimed at resolving the status of East Timor. The UN organized ‘popular consultations’ on the autonomy of East Timor and eventually led the process of East Timor’s transition to independence (1999); The UN established a security verification mission to disarm the Contras in Central America (1990); and in Cambodia, the UN supported the establishment of an interim government and promoted national reconciliation and the successful elections (1993).
The UN for example has supported regional integration through the Economic Commission for Africa to promote policies and programmes that strengthen the process of economic cooperation and integration in furtherance of the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community and the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Multilateral solutions for these global matters, as well as expanding the global understanding of human rights to include women and children (In 2000 where Namibia was recognized as playing a key role in initiating the groundbreaking resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security) are debated and agreed through global conferences. In these forums, frameworks and agendas for action with targets are elaborated and ultimately influence national agendas.
Namibia participated in the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II) in June 1998. On that occasion, Foreign Minister Gurirab emphasized the need for the international community “... to review the economic, social and political conditions in Africa and to redouble its actions together with the African peoples themselves for sustainable development on the Continent” Further, Namibia’s commitment to maintaining international peace and security is noted in the commendable role it has played in promoting the restoration of peace through successful and highly rated peace keepers who have served in countries such as Cambodia, Liberia and South Sudan.
Namibia has further demonstrated that it has the capacity to take a leading role in shaping global agendas demonstrated by the role it played in the formulation of the Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that reaffirmed the fundamental principal that the rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.
Namibia was one of the 10 member-states of the AU High Level Committee of the Post 2015 Development Agenda which was instrumental in the formulation of the Common African Position (CAP) on the Post 2015 Development Agenda; which was Africa’s input in the formulation of the SDGs. Namibia continues to advocate for the global achievement of the SDGs as witnessed by the statement of H. E. Dr. Hage Geingob-President of the Republic of Namibia when he attended the high level UN General Assembly thematic debate on the achievement of the SDGs. President Geingob urged the International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and other Regional Development Banks to play a key role, by stimulating private finance to support the implementation of the SDGs.
In the area of environment too, Namibia remains in the forefront of the fight against climate change. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, during the briefing session on various matters with the Diplomatic Corps in Namibia in November 2015, emphasized that "Namibia's message to the international community at COP 21 was that the international community must work together for global mitigation action if we are to ensure both sustainable development at national level and prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change’. Namibia went to Paris with the goal to support an agreement to reduce global warming below two degrees Celsius.
Economic diplomacy continues to determine the thrust of Namibia’s foreign policy as evidenced by its pursuit of strengthened trade through a number of trade agreements with African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group); Africa Free Trade Zone; Southern African Customs Union (SACU); European Free Trade Association (EFTA), African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Other economic bilateral agreements with Angola, China, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Romania, Russia and Tunisia ensures that Namibia’s foreign policy continues to play an important role in in enhancing Namibia’s contribution to international cooperation through better trade
This paper has attempted to demonstrate the role the UN has played in influencing Foreign Policy over the past 70 years. The paper also demonstrates the UN systems’ support of global efforts to promote social progress and better standards of living.
Examples of international practice provided in the paper (from frameworks such as the MDGs to the support of the independence movement in Namibia) demonstrate how FP can assist in accelerating development and eradicating poverty.
Therefore, building on its own successful experience in working with the International community (both at home and abroad) to accelerate development, moving forward, Namibia could pursue a dual track approach as part of its ongoing effort to eradicate poverty by:
a) Maintaining macroeconomic stability, prioritizing inclusive and sustainable economic growth with a focus on expanding mining, tourism, and agriculture in order to diversify economic activity and increase government revenues, and create jobs; and
b) Developing a robust social protection system, in order to pull the most vulnerable out of poverty.
Namibia could use its foreign policy and good standing in the international community to:
A) Leverage MIC status: It is important for Namibia to signal to global and regional partners that its upper middle income status was achieved through stable macroeconomic growth facilitated by a peaceful and stable political system. This is important to attract not only more investments into the country but also to establish its leadership both in the region and globally. Namibia is well positioned to play an active role in strengthening regional cooperation and integration, for example in promoting trade facilitation especially benefiting land locked countries in the region. Similarly, it can champion the provision of regional public goods through coordinated action, for instance, on disaster response, climate change, and good governance etc. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
B) Strengthen Bilateral Agreements: Engaging with other countries to partner for solutions (for instance under the framework of the Paris Agreement) would be an innovative approach in Namibia’s foreign policy. By concentrating on pressing issues such as drought, innovations for water and energy security through discussions on transfer of technology and capacity-building support by developed countries, Namibia would significantly address these national challenges. Building upon its successful partnership in the Benguela Current Commission Programme, Namibia could focus on forging such partnerships to address resilience and emergency response preparedness.
C) Intensify South-South Cooperation: Efforts to promote South-South cooperation, need to be pursued vigorously as they would be helpful not only in diversifying sectors such as higher education, health and skills development but also support universal access to sustainable energy through increased cooperation on use of renewable energy. To achieve the ambition of an industrialized country with a diverse production base, Namibia will need to open its borders in the short term to attract experts to address the problem of skills shortages across all sectors of the economy. Namibia could accelerate its human capital development by leveraging professional expertise in the health, education and engineering sectors, sourced within the continent or from its diaspora. These professional experts could support Namibia to build its cadre of professionals through training and mentorship and support the diversification of higher education.
The review by Namibia of its Foreign Policy, presents an opportune moment for the UN to reiterate its commitment in support of the Government in achieving its developmental goals. The UN will strive to remain the Government’s partner of choice.
To download the Presentation delivered by the Resident Coordinator at the Foreign Policy Review Click here.
 The General Assembly terminated South Africa’s mandate over South-West Africa and ruled that South Africa had no further right to administer this country. This Resolution assigned the UN direct responsibility for the territory and designated the Security Council as the legal administering authority.
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 The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was developed in 2010 by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme and uses different factors to determine poverty beyond income-based lists.
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 UNDP has helped channel over 70 million dollars since the mid-90s to improve national capacity to protect and conserve natural resources, particularly ones that people depend on for daily survival. A few milestones include raising the protected areas to 60,000 km2, estimating the value of marine resources at US$269 million per annum and, supporting some 50,000 people to raise resilience to climate change.
 In order to reach the most remote communities, UNICEF/WHO/CDC demonstrated the potential of Health Extension Workers to bridge the gap between communities and health facilities. MoHSS has now rolled this out to 11 out of 14 regions. Like education, health is an enabler to lift individuals out of poverty
 UNICEF provided the research which made the case for free Universal Primary Education. GRN has now gone further and introduced free and universal secondary education this year. Education is recognized in NDP4 as a key enabler for development.
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 To accelerate development and eradicate poverty ‘broad coalitions with civil society, private sector, philanthropy and multilateral institutions and development partners as appropriate are needed’ Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, High-Level Side Event on the Margins of the 2016 UN High Level Political Forum.
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 The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. It was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
 Namibia hosted the 31st session Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) ACP-EU June 2016, in Windhoek.
 The African Free Trade Zone (AFTZ) is a free trade zone announced at the EAC-SADC-COMESA Summit on 22 October 2008 by the heads of Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). The African Free Trade Zone is also referred to as the African Free Trade Area in some official documents.
 Namibia hosts the SACU secretariat in Windhoek
 The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the EU's single market.
 The African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA is a legislation that has been approved by the U.S. Congress in May 2000. The purpose of this legislation is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve economic relations between the United States and the region. After completing its initial 15-year period of validity, the AGOA legislation was extended on 29 June 2015 by a further 10 years, to 2025.
 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa