African Trade Bank urges deeper regional trade ties with the Caribbean

Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah during the second AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum held in Guyana. [Courtesy]

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has emphasized the need for enhanced cross-border connectivity between Africa and the Caribbean, along with stronger mutual trade and investment cooperation. Despite geographical and regulatory obstacles that impede trade, both regional blocs have committed to forging closer economic relations.

"Just over a year ago, we began that journey convinced that only we could transform the fortunes of our lands...," said Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah during the second AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum held in Guyana.

"All of us from Africa and the Caribbean, at this moment more than at any other time in history, hold a firm conviction that determined action can grant us the economic emancipation and the true dignity we deserve.

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.

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali speaking at the forum said the oil-producing South American country and its Caribbean neighbours are keen to tap the expertise of the African private sector in developing their key economic sectors including primary manufacturing as well as oil and gas.

Mr Ali, whose country has been dubbed the fastest-growing economy in the world following the discovery of massive oil deposits urged African firms to tap the opportunities in the block.

Guyana's government is forecasting the nascent oil producer's economy, which has recently been among the world's fastest-growing, will expand by at least 25 per cent per year in the next three to four years.

Since oil production was inaugurated in 2019 by a consortium led by US major Exxon Mobil Corp, Guyana's economy has boomed and the government has proposed devoting an increasing portion of its budget to infrastructure projects.

Mr Ali urged the Caribbean private sector to tap Afreximbank to address regional infrastructure bottlenecks. He also urged Africa and Caribean countries to grab trade opportunities in the two regions.

"We have identified the blockage in the artery and we are going to remove this," said Mr Ali.

"We are too small to act in silos. We have to remove the imaginary barriers."

"In honour of our forefathers who lost their lives horrendously we now have an opportunity to rewrite that history and enhance collaboration between our two regions," said the Guyanese President.

According to Afreximbank's managing director for intra-African trade Kanayo Awani, trade between Africa and the Caribbean is negligible due to market access costs but opportunities abound, she said.

"We have issues around regulations, testing, payment which are hindering trade," said Ms Kanayo Awani.

"The two regions offer an opportunity of 3.5 trillion GDP. The Caribbean also offers a gateway to northern and Latin America. There are opportunities on both sides."

According to Culture, music and sports provide a rich opportunity for collaboration."

"Africa and the Caribbean have to be the places people come to see top-class athletics."

"This is one of the greatest assets to foster peace."

Experts 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 (Sh39 billion) every year," said International Trade Centre Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton.

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