Economic Emancipation Through the Africa-Caribbean Partnership24 Jun 2024

AfreximbankCaribbean-Africa relations have been building momentum

The convening power of the African-Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) was on full display last week as twenty-five current and former Heads of State from the continent and the Caribbean, Ministers and Heads of International Agencies, Aliko Dangote, Jeffrey Sachs, Viola Davis, Wyclef Jean, Rick Ross, Folakwe Olowofoyeku, Boris Kodjoe, and numerous other global brands and renowned individuals, descended on Nassau the Bahamas from 12 – 15 June, for the Afreximbank’s 31st Annual Meeting (AAM) and the third AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF). The theme – ‘Owning our Destiny: Economic Prosperity on the Platform of Global Africa’.

In recent years, Caribbean-Africa relations have been building momentum. In 2021, the inaugural Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-Africa Summit was held virtually. This meeting breathed new life into this historic relationship, given the reality of Africa as the fastest growing continent in the world. In fact, Africa’s economy sees immense potential. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area notes that by 2035, there is expected to be a US$ 450 million boost to the economy, lifting 30 million people out of poverty.

Recently, the African Union declared the Caribbean as the sixth region of Africa, marking a full-circle moment, hinging on a proud and celebrated history, but one that holds immense economic and transformative potential for the regions.

The Afreximbank has cemented their role in this partnership, moving beyond rhetoric and sentimentality. In Bahamas, delegates were reminded of the role of the Bank in securing much needed vaccines for Africa and the Caribbean when, during the COVID-19 pandemic, individual Caribbean and African vaccine orders were insignificant to garner the attention of vaccine manufacturers. The Afreximbank under the leadership of Professor Benedict Oramah, guaranteed up to US$ 2 billion through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform for millions of doses to contain the pandemic across the regions.

More recently, the Board of Directors of Afreximbank approved US$1.5 billion funding to enable member states of CARICOM that have ratified the Partnership Agreement with Afreximbank, to tap into the Bank’s various financial instruments to support economic sectors including tourism, healthcare, renewable energy, shipping, mining, agriculture and agribusiness, air links, and aquaculture. Afreximbank will also work to support local financial institutions to source finance for SMEs. To date, 11 CARICOM members have signed on to this Agreement, and since the opening of the Bank’s CARICOM office in late 2023, financing has been provided under this arrangement to Saint Lucia and Barbados for instance, supporting school rehabilitation and sports infrastructure respectively.

Afreximbank must be commended for forging south-south solutions

The AAM delivered on its theme; there was a recurring sentiment of self-determination, a reunion, a shared vision of economic prosperity. At the same time, this polycrisis world is marred by deglobalization and rising protectionist policies, the antithesis to the notion of interconnectedness at the start of the 21st century. These global challenges have caused the compulsion to look within and across, rather than outside, for the solutions to building resilient societies. A prominent voice exalted, “Africa and the Caribbean must not outsource its development.”

Trade between Africa and the Caribbean portends significant potential. Africa’s exports to the Caribbean or the region’s exports to Africa stand at less than 1% according to the ITC, and are concentrated in a few products, including petroleum. While this volume of trade is low, it represents a significant opportunity for an expansion of trade and investment between the partners. Africa is home to 60% of the world’s arable lands and together with Suriname and Guyana, with enhanced logistics, supply chain connectivity and infrastructure investments, the region can feed itself.

In the area of services including film, music, fashion, art, literature, gastronomy and sports, the Bank is leading innovative programs to leverage the Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) platform to support the expansion of the creative and cultural economy within Africa and the diaspora. Several initiatives and partnerships were unveiled, including with some of the global personalities mentioned earlier.

The meeting in the Bahamas witnessed hundreds of millions in deal signings, Agreements of Intent as well as Memoranda of Understanding, including with the Caribbean Export Development Agency. The MOU between the two agencies seeks to boost Africa-Caribbean trade and investment through collaborative initiatives focusing on capacity building, knowledge sharing, and trade facilitation for the private sector, including MSMEs. It also seeks to foster reciprocal investment and unlock new business opportunities across both regions. This builds on work already started since Caribbean Export’s inaugural trade and investment mission to Accra Ghana and Lagos Nigeria in June 2023, leading a delegation of over 30 Caribbean public and private sector participants. This framework will provide the basis to advance meaningful exchanges to enhance business ties across the regions. Caribbean Export’s flagship Caribbean Investment Forum, now in its third year can support this mandate to increase the pipeline of projects from Africa and the Caribbean.

The sobering thoughts of the global economy, the climate crisis and shifting geo-politics were put to rest, albeit temporarily, as the week culminated in a world class celebration of everything Afro-Caribbean – a manifestation of unity through the arts. It reminded us that only an ocean separates us. The Afreximbank must be commended for providing the platform for identifying south-south solutions for our economic emancipation.

Source: Caribbean Export Development Agency