STATEMENT by Dr THE HONOURABLE KEITH ROWLEY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AND IMMEDIATE FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIRST AFRICA-CARICOM SUMMIT
- Mr Chairman
- Your Excellencies
- Good day.
Today’s high-level engagement between CARICOM and Africa is a historic one. It is fitting that this First Summit is being held during the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (1 January 2015 to 31 December 2024).
I wish to thank His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta for the sterling efforts that have brought us to this juncture. We must also acknowledge, apart from our centuries-old ties, the many African and Caribbean architects/champions of closer political, social, economic and cultural linkages between and among our sovereign states.
Africa has been CARICOM’s invaluable partner in several platforms such as at the UN, within the Group of 77 and, in our dealings with Europe under the umbrella of what is now the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). United, we have known success.
Closer collaboration will undoubtedly be to our mutual benefit whether it be in pursuing development finance, resource utilization and debt sustainability; maximizing the green and blue economies; UN Security Council Reform with Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) adequately positioned; or in the existential fight against climate change, the effects of which are wreaking havoc the world over and exacerbating our peculiar vulnerabilities. We look forward therefore to a meaningful outcome in Glasgow at COP26 working alongside our global partners.
As Chairman of CARICOM during the first half of this year, I can attest to the value of closer collaboration between our regions. As COVID-19 ravaged the social and economic fabric of our nations, CARICOM prioritized the early sourcing of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate as many people as possible before additional threats, such as new variants, presented themselves. The prevailing vaccine inequity, commonly called vaccine apartheid, stymied that plan.
I therefore wish to register my sincere gratitude to His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, Co-Chair of our Summit, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo of Ghana, for the meaningful discussions and interventions during my tenure and the pragmatic solutions arrived at in the face of this global health crisis. Thankfully, last month, CARICOM began to receive a substantial allocation of vaccines under the African Medical Supplies Platform. Thank you, Africa. I am pleased to confirm that my country’s first tranche was received on 19th August 2021.
Trinidad and Tobago’s linkages to Africa run deep as marked by our bilateral relationships, observer status at the African Union (AU), High Commissions in Nigeria and South Africa and Honorary Consuls in Ghana and Kenya. Soon, we too will avail ourselves of the magnanimous gesture of the Government of Kenya to provide office space for CARICOM’s diplomatic presence in Africa – a tangible manifestation of the commitment to engage Africa’s 6th Region as reflected in your blueprint for development – Vision 2063.
It’s been long in coming to this point today but it’s a continuation of that journey outlined by our own George Padmore, C.L.R James, Dr Eric Eustace Williams and many others who anticipated that this milestone could be reached to strengthen us in an increasingly hostile world.
Notably, our country’s Vision 2030, finalised during my Administration’s first term in office, highlights deepening the relationship with Africa, among others partners.
We have strong people-to-people ties and have welcomed distinguished African leaders to our shores with the most recent, in 2019, being His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana. I had the privilege of undertaking an Official Visit to Ghana in 2016 and building on the African Energy Initiative spearheaded by former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, sharing over 160 years of experience in the energy sector.
We welcome the inclusion on today’s agenda of trade and investment and highlight the symbiotic relationship that exists with improving transport connectivity. While digital functionality is an imperative with online platforms such as this one being ubiquitous, in-person exchanges will boost our trade, investment and tourism activities. We believe that there is scope also for immediate closer cooperation in the areas of finance and agriculture.
In the financial services sector, some advances have been already been made. Our indigenous Republic Bank Limited acquired, in April 2018, the majority shareholding of HFC Bank of Ghana Limited as part of its aim to be a key player in Corporate Banking internationally. We look forward to continued investments in both directions. We in CARICOM are actively engaged in discussions to establish an INVESTMENT FUND to unlock and sustain our development programs. We trust that Africa will invest with us as we are indelibly imprinted with Africa in us.
There is also scope for collaboration in the creative sector which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Africa and the Caribbean have gifted the world with exceptional talent be it in music, publishing, film or fashion. Let us strengthen the links between our regions’ creative industries, a sector described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as having the capacity to be “drivers of cultural, economic and social outputs for sustainable development”.
We must also seek out ways to mend the socio-cultural dissonance derived from the legacy of slavery. Educational programmes, the development and promotion of genealogy or heritage tracing, may prove instrumental in filling the knowledge and familial gaps.
In closing, I look forward to deepening our strategic partnership in the best interests of our citizenry.
I wish to close by quoting the great Kwame Nkrumah, “I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me”.