Africa and the Caribbean have it within their capacity “forever to remove the scars of the middle passage” by cooperating on the great issues confronting the two regions, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados said yesterday at the opening of the first-ever AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2022) in Bridgetown, Barbados.
In a keynote address to the more than 1,500 participants gathered from across Africa and the Caribbean for the Forum, Ms. Mottley said that Africa and the Caribbean had the collective brainpower, creativity, discipline, resilience and capital to make a defining difference and called for the creation of air bridges between the regions.
Emphasising the importance of collaborating at various levels to facilitate development, she insisted that political cooperation, even though essential, was not sufficient to reverse the underdevelopment of Africa and the Caribbean.
“We, children of independence, have determined that we shall not allow another generation to pass without bringing together that which should have never been torn asunder. We face common battles from the climate crisis to the COVID pandemic, now to the third aspect of it, with respect to inflation and debt that threaten to tear too many of our countries apart and threaten to put back into poverty too many of our people,” said the Prime Minister.
“These travel dependent economies, whether in Africa or in the Caribbean, have literally been thrown on their backs and we seek to fight this battle of bridging and reclaiming our Atlantic destiny on both sides, at the very time when the travel and tourism industry is facing its greatest challenge in decades… We can choose to record that as but another major battle, or we can say as my country has done, even in the midst of an IMF programme, that if you do not seize our destiny now, we will never seize it,” added Prime Minister Mottley.
“It is not anticipated that we can reverse centuries in a few years, but it is anticipated that there are some who must claim the courage to jump off the ship and make it happen,” she continued.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), announced the Bank’s intention to work with Caribbean governments to set up a Caribbean Exim Bank with an investment of US$700 million. That amount would be in addition to the US$250 million the Bank has already made available to support Africa-Caribbean trade and investment.
“We will be pleased to advance our discussions with the Caribbean Development Bank to scale-up trade-enabling infrastructure investments in the region, as well as investments in the integration of CARICOM countries in the emerging value chains within geographic Africa, being made possible by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. We are happy to have begun the implementation of internship programmes whereby Caribbean students pursue attachment programmes in the Bank,” he added.
“We hope that when we leave here, our two regions will have forged an unbreakable bond that opens direct links enabling the Caribbean to receive a fair share of tourism receipts from African tourists, for example. We would want to leave here with actionable proposals on how to open air and sea links between the Caribbean and Africa. We would like to leave here with concrete plans to open banking and payment rails; to seal joint ventures for industrial projects; to deepen our commercial collaboration in the creative and cultural space, including how to collectively protect our intellectual properties; to share knowledge and jointly invest in climate adaptation projects, and to create institutional arrangements that will enable capacity building and greater daily engagements amongst ourselves, including more Africa-Caribbean inter-marriages so that the links we are rebuilding will be unbreakable,” Prof. Oramah said.
Also addressing the opening ceremony were the Chairman of CARICOM, President H.E. Chandrikapersad Santokhi of Suriname; H.E. Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals; Hon. Amadou Hott, Minister of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation, Republic of Senegal; H.E. Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett, Secretary General, CARICOM Secretariat; and Mr John Williams, Chairman, Invest Barbados.
The opening ceremony also witnessed the signing of partnership agreements between Afreximbank and six Caribbean countries to manifest the commitment of Afreximbank and the Caribbean to promote, accelerate and support trade and investment opportunities in several areas of cooperation between Africa and the Caribbean. Prof. Oramah initialled the agreements on behalf of the Bank while Prime Minister Mottley; H.E. Chandrik Apersad Santokhi, President of Republic of Suriname and Chairman of CARICOM; Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of St. Kitts; Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica; Emma Hippolyte, Minister of Commerce, Industry, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs of St. Lucia and Daryll Matthew, Minister of Education, Sports and Creative Arts of Antigua and Barbuda, signed for their countries.
About 1,500 delegates from 87 countries are attending ACTIF2022, which is being held under the theme ‘One People, One Destiny: Uniting and Reimagining Our Future’. The Forum is convened by the Government of Barbados and Afreximbank, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the AfCFTA Secretariat, the Africa Business Council, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Export Development Agency. It is being co-managed by Invest Barbados and Export Barbados. To find out more about ACTIF2022 and opportunities for collaboration between the regions, visit www.actif2022.com.