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Remarks by Dr Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General, Caribbean Community, (CARICOM) at the event in Celebration of Africa-CARICOM Day, organised by the P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy and The University of the West Indies, Mona, 7 September 2023

  • Your Excellencies;
  • Distinguished guests;
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to join you on this second Africa-CARICOM Day, as we acknowledge the deepening CARICOM-Africa relationship and our enduring bonds of ancestry, history, and culture.

I thank the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, through the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor, for their leadership in organising this event and of course for their ongoing work to deepen the relationship between the Caribbean and Africa.

Exchanges such as these catalyse the growth of our socio-economic partnerships. They allow us to chart a way forward, based on our inter-regional objectives, in areas such as sustainable development, trade, investment, and people-to-people contact. They also bolster our public advocacy for key development initiatives and build support for effective implementation.

In these times of increased geopolitical tensions, it is essential that public policy practitioners, academics, and socio-economic actors fully comprehend the value of purposeful international relations. Our Regions are influential and dynamic forces in the global community. While protracted and multifaceted global and political crises continue to weigh heavily on our societies, we retain the will and capacity to design and establish cooperative structures that promote our mutual socio-economic interests.

Our leaders acknowledged this reality two years ago at our first Africa-CARICOM Summit. On that occasion, we committed to forging a deeper alliance that leverages a collaborative programme for action, and opens new areas of opportunity and cooperation. Since then, we have been working towards sustaining meaningful relations, with engagements that underpin our mutual advancement and inter-regional solidarity.

Following our inaugural Summit, the pace of initiatives to strengthen CARICOM-Africa cooperation has quickened in areas of strategic importance to both Regions. Efforts to cement relations between states have increased, as several CARICOM Member States have established diplomatic representation in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed an unprecedented number of reciprocal visits of Heads of State and Government. We are encouraged by the continued appointment of Ambassadors or Special Envoys, and facilitation of executive-level exchanges in the public and private sectors, to deepen outreach and to identify and act on specific opportunities.

Initiatives implemented include the conclusion of a Partnership Agreement between CARICOM States and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), and establishment of its Caribbean headquarters in Barbados, just about a month ago. Nine CARICOM Member States have already signed the Partnership Agreement with Afreximbank. This is an important framework to operationalise cooperation towards strengthened bilateral trade and investment links. It is expected that the Afreximbank relationship will support expansion of Africa-Caribbean trade and investment relations. 

Additionally, the ongoing collaboration between Rwanda and two CARICOM Member States – Barbados and Guyana – on a pharmaceutical production program will help ensure adequate supplies of critical pharmaceuticals for both our Regions.

Last year’s Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF), convened in Barbados, provided a space for executive-level exchanges. Participants included political, business and finance leaders from over 100 countries, with 50 African and 13 Caribbean countries represented.  The Forum fostered strong dialogue and business contacts among the private sectors of the two Regions, and established the foundations to strengthen commercial and economic relations. 

ACTIF also resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Afreximbank, the Africa Business Council and the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), to establish the Africa-Caribbean Business Council.

We look forward to the Second Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum to be held in Guyana next month under the theme “Creating A Shared Prosperous Future”.

Additional valuable opportunities have further cemented our relationship. These include two virtual forums in July – the Global Africa People to People Forum and the Fifth International Conference organized by the Pan-African Enterprise Research Council. The Regions also collaborated on a Study Tour on Reparations held in Barbados, which was organised by the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC), the CARICOM Reparations Commission and other partners. The Study Tour allowed us to share CARICOM’s experience in developing a unified position and regional architecture to advance the reparations agenda, as the AU seeks to elaborate its own position on reparatory justice.

It is evident that this partnership between CARICOM and Africa is making progress in some of the priority areas to which Heads committed at the 1st CARICOM-Africa Summit. However, more work needs to be done to establish concrete and consistent connections between the Community and Africa in several areas. These include:

  • cooperation in mass media and information sharing between both Regions;
  • establishing a CARICOM-Africa Commission;
  • increasing direct engagements between the people of our Regions to enhance our appreciation for our history and our cultures; and
  • improving our connectivity with convenient transportation links.

We are also preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding which has already been agreed between the African Union Commission and the CARICOM Secretariat to institutionalize our collaboration.

Through our cooperation, we are building on the strong and inspiring tradition of Pan-Africanism, and facilitating the reconnection of the continent with the African diaspora, now designated by the AU as the Sixth Region of Africa. We should actively promote education, culture, sports and exchange programmes, and continue to collaboratively chart our partnerships on matters that will benefit us all, and especially, benefit our youth.

Opportunities abound for CARICOM and Africa to work closely in multilateral fora on trade, climate change, development financing, public health, and reparations – all areas of mutual interest. We must build on the strength of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group to champion our common trade and development concerns, and interests in the World Trade Organization and other fora.

Ladies and gentlemen, the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) is now in its ninth year. We need joint advocacy to press for the adoption of a Second Decade to ensure the “recognition, justice and development” of people of African descent as originally intended.

Today, we will hear reflections from regional and international luminaries on our strategic alliance. It is particularly encouraging to have our youth involved, as we explore avenues for greater engagement. They bring fresh ideas and perspectives that are important for charting the way forward.

As CARICOM continues its 50th Anniversary celebrations and looks towards the future of the Region, we acknowledge that South-South Cooperation remains a crucial instrument to advance regional development. We look forward to the outcomes of this Forum and to a Second Africa-CARICOM Summit, as we continue to build a stronger and more prosperous future for Africa and for the Caribbean Community.

Thank you.

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