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‘Today we are committing to forge a new more permanent alliance’ – CARICOM Secretary-General #AfricaCARICOMSummit

REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) HER EXCELLENCY CARLA BARNETT, PhD, CBE on THE occasion OF THE FIRST AFRICA-CARICOM SUMMIT , 7 SEPTEMBER 2021

CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett
  • Chairman, Your Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya;
  • Other Excellencies Heads of State and Government.

The cycle of history has brought us together again. Centuries after enforced separation we gather around this virtual table to foster a new relationship between our Regions. One that is freely entered into.

We have had our moments of acting together to protect and advance our mutual interests, but today we are committing to forge a new more permanent alliance that has the potential to open new vistas of collaboration and cooperation.

Key to our future relationship is the strengthening of institutional links. Over the years, we at the CARICOM Secretariat have had the pleasure of interacting with the secretariats of integration movements in Africa. Representatives of the African Union Commission (AUC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have all been welcomed to our Guyana Headquarters. There have been reciprocal visits to SADC.

These exchanges began in 1997 and have continued periodically, and are aimed at exploring and exchanging ideas on the processes of regional cooperation and the systems and procedures of operations.

Countries of the Caribbean Community and Africa have always been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at developing countries working closer together. We were both at the heart of the conception and formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, and similarly what is now the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

What we have not done is use those links to create lasting mechanisms, which would bring together the strengths of our two Regions to elicit results to the benefit of our countries and our peoples.

The recent experiences with respect to the acquisition and distribution of vaccines to stop the spread of a global pandemic must serve as an impetus to drive this relationship forward. I take this opportunity to thank the African Union for its generosity and solidarity in including the Caribbean Community in the African Medical Supplies Platform, which has provided significant amounts of vaccines to our Member States.

The imperatives that we both face more starkly than others with the phenomenon of climate change must also drive us towards ever closer unity of purpose and action. The sharing of skills and information between our scientific communities and our institutions, established to combat this existential threat, should be encouraged.

Indeed, in 2018 at high level discussions between the CARICOM Secretariat and the African Union Commission, both sides agreed on the need for greater collaboration on matters of mutual interest in the international arena, such as climate change.

The recent scientific reports spell out dire predictions for both our Regions, given the continuing rise in global warming as it approaches 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels at a rate much faster than previously acknowledged. That matter of mutual interest is one that must unite us at the COP26 in the United Kingdom later this year.

Chair, this new relationship must also extend to increasing trade and investment between Africa and CARICOM. Preliminary figures for 2020 indicate total trade at approximately $29 Million (US), a drop of 10 Million from 2018. While the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can explain this decline, as we seek to rebuild our economies, the private sector on both sides must become alive to the opportunities to expand investment and trade in both Regions, with the requisite policy support from the public sector. It is one of the areas in which our mutual membership in Organisations such as the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States, can be leveraged to our benefit.

Let us demonstrate that South-South Cooperation can be an instrument that leads to furthering the development of nations. Let the evils of the past that separated us be turned into the good fortunes of our future. Let the potential of this relationship be realised into the reality of a better life for the peoples of the Caribbean Community and Africa.

I thank you.

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