AGOA: Why the silence on grave EWC risk?
5 November 2023
The AGOA Forum entered its final day in Johannesburg amid threats, fanfare, and big promises, but not a word from officials on either the US or South African side has been said about the risk of South Africa’s exit due to the Expropriation Bill’s provisions for expropriation without compensation (EWC).
To be eligible for the zero-tariff market access provided for by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the first requirement of this US law is that the African country seeking the benefit “has established, or is making continual progress toward establishing (A) a market-based economy that protects private property rights”.
The Expropriation Bill, which has been passed by the National Assembly and is expected to be signed into law before the next national election in 2024, disestablishes “private property rights” through EWC on an open list of grounds, including the seizure of title deeds on hijacked buildings, invaded land, and land that was bought primarily “to benefit from the appreciation of its market value”.
This unambiguously violates “private property rights” in the universal sense of the term, and according to US law. That puts South African exporters, and workers who depend on those businesses, at risk.