Today, history was made as the first-ever Africa-Caricom Summit was held virtually. The summit hosted by Kenya and chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta covered many points of interest including; climate change, health, debt sustainability, technology, and economic growth.
In his opening statement, President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that we are united by our heritage as people of African descent and that the meeting was to strengthen cultural ties and to build social, economic, and political linkages that would promote shared prosperity and social progress for us all.
President Kenyatta said, “Both Africa and the Caribbean regions are blessed with enormous resources in the blue economy, the African continent has 38 coastal states and a coastal line of over 47,000 kilometers.” The president said the members of states of Caricom endure access to approximately 1 million square miles of the Caribbean sea. He stated that this presented an enormous opportunity to foster innovative partnerships across the two regions to sustainably harness and exploit the potential of the blue economy, and continued on to say sustainable exploitation of those resources would no doubt boost economic prosperity, expand the creation of decent jobs and strengthen food security across the regions.
‘Blue Economy’ addresses how we make use of our oceans by calling for the sustainable use of its resources to ensure it contributes to economic growth while providing livelihoods and at the same time, ensuring that ecosystem health is sustained. In Trinidad and Tobago, fisheries, tourism, offshore oil, and gas exploration, and maritime transport, are well-established blue economy sectors that have contributed to our national development.
Another to contribute towards expanding our economies was the Prime Minister of Antigua, the Honourable Gaston Browne who stated that we must establish a corporation to promote our socio-economic interests, increasing investment and trade and people-to-people exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Browne states, “ We should resist being pushed to the margins of international decision making and collaborate on decisions to restructure the global financial architecture and global taxation, climate change, the blue economy, sustainable debt, reparations among others.”
He went on to state; ‘Between the nations of the Caricom there is a population of approximately 1.4 billion people with great natural resources including oil, gas, forestry, tourism, fisheries and much more we are the suppliers of vital commodities to the global community and a strong market for the goods and services for the European market as well as North America but we need to utilize those resources for our own benefit.’
Another speaker was our own Honourable Prime Minister, Doctor. Keith Rowley who is also the immediate former chairperson of Caricom and while prime Minister Rowley mostly focused on the prominent Covid situation he to touched on the fact that we should focus more of our attention on collaborating our efforts with Africa and other Caribbean countries on not just the blue economy but the green economy as well, which has to do with renewable sources of energy.
Prime Minister Rowley stated that those in Caricom were actively engaged in discussions to establish an investment fund to unlock and sustain our development program and that there was space for collaboration in the creative sector which was hit hard in the course of this pandemic.
In the closing statements, the summit noted the need to address mutual economic and communication challenges and to endeavor to exploit the blue economy and technology for the advancement of our people. It recognized our strength in numbers and the need to eliminate barriers in trade and therefore open up our respective blocks to trade across borders.
The summit was originally supposed to be held in 2020 but was put on hold due to the pandemic, there were multiple participants in the event that included the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community and the African Union Commission, Chairs of Caricom, the President of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), The Africa Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and many others.