LOME: US President Donald Trump barely mentioned Africa or trade with the continent during his whirlwind campaign and has been mostly silent about the region since taking office.

But the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum being held in the Togolese capital Lome this week will bring together top US officials and African ministers.

The gathering will finally shine a light on Trump’s policies toward the region of 1.2 billion people.

What is the African Growth and Opportunity Act? It was a trade deal inked between the United States and eligible African countries nations under Bill Clinton’s presidency and enacted in 2000.

It gives 39 African nations duty-free access to the US market for about 6,500 products including textiles, cars, fruit and wine.

Those countries permitted to participate in AGOA are obliged to prove that they are making efforts to improve human rights, the rule of law and worker protections.

Early signs were not good for the 45th president’s interest in trade with the continent. He spoke regularly on the campaign trail about the need to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and to get a better deal with China — but Africa did not feature in his top priorities.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2017