- Your Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana
- Hon. Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister, Saint Lucia
- His Excellency Professor Benedict Oramah, President and Board Chairman, Afreximbank
- Other distinguished guests
- Ladies and gentlemen
It is a distinct pleasure for me to say a few words at the opening of this second Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum, taking place this time in Guyana, and organised by the Government of Guyana, the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) and other collaborators. Can I say that we are on the way to an annual AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum?
At the First CARICOM-Africa Summit in 2021, our Leaders articulated a vision of a shared prosperous future built on greater economic integration and enhanced people to people contact, through increased trade, investment, air travel, and maritime links.
With its market in the Continental Free Trade arrangement set to reach $6.7 trillion dollars by 2030, Africa presents tremendous potential. The continent is experiencing rapid growth and transformation, with some countries being categorised among the fastest growing economies in the world.
CARICOM is a strong performer in services, especially in sectors such as travel, tourism, and financial services, and there are real opportunities for investment and trade in the services sector as well as in the agriculture and industrial sectors. And, of course, we have among us the country categorized as the fastest growing economy in the world, Guyana.
There is much work to be done. The trade data shows that at this time there is a limited range of both exports and imports, and trade flows are also limited to a few countries. Total CARICOM/Africa trade for 2021 was US$538 million, with a balance of US$110 million in favour of Africa. Total trade in 2021 declined from a high of US$1.177 billion in 2018when trade was nearly balanced.
A study by the International Trade Centre on Expanding Africa-Caribbean Trade, which was launched at the first AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum last year 2022] in Barbados, found considerable trade potential between Africa and the Caribbean. Services exports to Africa show the greatest opportunity for the Caribbean, and Africa has 2.3 times more potential to export goods to the Caribbean. Advancing trade and investment flows between our Regions requires strengthened and streamlined infrastructure to support Africa-CARICOM trade, including for air and maritime distribution and transportation channels. This would be facilitated by establishment of a Multilateral Air Services Agreement between African countries and the Caribbean Community.
Since ACTIF 2022, there has been growing commercial cooperation between the Caribbean Region and Africa, supported by the AFREXIMBANK. Most CARICOM Member States have signed Partnership Agreements with AFREXIMBANK, to operationalize cooperation towards strengthened bilateral trade and investment links, including by promoting and financing trade between our Regions.
The AFREXIMBANK has established a representative office in Barbados, and is providing technical assistance towards establishing the CARICOM Export-Import Bank. The potential for utilizing the Pan-African payment and settlement system as a method of intra-regional payments within the Caribbean is being studied, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing the Africa-Caribbean Business Council has been signed. We also anticipate the signing of the MoU on Upscaling Engagement between the CARICOM Secretariat and the African Union Secretariat.
The work that is in train to establish a platform for sustained dialogue, partnership and cooperation requires constant attention and support. Creating a shared, prosperous future demands, in particular, that the private sector of the Caribbean and Africa continue to consolidate and grow the commercial ties that were forged at last year at the first ACTIF 2022 in Barbados.
Let us therefore use this Forum as a building block to strengthen existing bilateral cooperation and engagements in trade, investment, technology transfer, innovation, tourism, culture and other priority areas. Let us nurture the strategic partnerships between the business communities in Africa and the CARICOM Region and continue purposefully along the path to a shared prosperous future.
We look forward to the implementation of many business ties. Communication creates business opportunities. I wish all participants a successful Forum.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.