Pan African trade-focused lender the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has opened a new office in the Island nation of Barbados with a view to boosting trade with African countries including Kenya and the surrounding Caribbean Islands nations.
Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah said the new Afreximbank Caribbean Office will support the implementation of the partnership agreement between Afreximbank and the Caribbean Community or Caricom – an economic bloc of 15 member states throughout the Americas and Atlantic Ocean.
He added the move cements Afreximbank’s efforts to promote and develop trade between Africa and the Caribbean, in line with its Diaspora Strategy and the African Union’s designation of the African Diaspora as Africa’s sixth region.
“With the launch of the Caribbean Office, we can look forward to a smooth implementation of trade and access to finance initiatives, broader business origination across the Caricom member states and more impactful results from our partnership,” Prof Oramah said in a statement sent to newsrooms.
Barbados, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, said in the statement the new office will help cement trade relations between the two regions.
She said close links between the two regions were seen most recently again during the Covid-19 pandemic where she said Africa opened its doors to the Caribbean Community and facilitated access to equipment, therapeutics, and ultimately vaccines, with the payment mechanism facilitated through Afreximbank.
“This is not just a proud moment historically, but it is also a move that makes sense that will benefit our regional private sector and our regional state-owned corporations who need access to a more empathetic, reasonable bank and one willing to take risks that would allow our people to move and grow to the next level,” she said.
The idea of the office was first mooted during the first-ever Africa-Caribbean Trade Investment Forum held in Barbados last year.
The forum, backed by the government of Barbados and Afreximbank, was part of ongoing efforts to boost trade between Africa and the island nations.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta led a high-level delegation to Barbados in October 2021 where the two countries signed three key bilateral agreements for cooperation in aviation, environmental conservation, trade and investment.
Kenya disclosed at the time that Kenya and Barbados were exploring ways of establishing direct air and sea links to enable the free movement of people, goods and services between the two countries.
"This is one area where we are hoping to find great success that will make it easy for the businessmen and women, those seeking to re-engage with the African continent, to be able to do so without having to wait for visas from third parties," he had said.
Caribbean nations and territories include Barbados, Jamaica, Anguilla, Grenada, St Barts, St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos as well as Suriname, Belize, Guyana and the Cayman Islands.
They are located in the region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts.
Experts earlier urged Kenya and other EAC countries to take advantage of the overtures by the Caribbean Islands.
"In goods trade alone, we found that Africa could boost its exports to the Caribbean by more than 50 per cent in less than five years, potentially exporting $325 million (Sh45 billion) every year," said International Trade Centre Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton.
Low-hanging opportunities for Kenyan firms, the Kenyan delegation heard, are in the traditional stronghold of tourism but also upcoming sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and maritime.
"This is a chance for us to work together and build stronger bonds to the benefit of our regions, nations and people," the Barbados' Prime Minister said earlier.