Direct flights, financing deals pushed to boost Africa-Caribbean business links

Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote and Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah arrive at the forum. [Courtesy]

The Bahamas on Friday pushed for stronger commercial cooperation between Africa and the Caribbean, saying direct flights and student exchanges could help unlock economic opportunities between the regions.

Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper told a trade and investment forum that Nassau was in talks with several African carriers on establishing direct links to the Caribbean.

"Direct connectivity is imperative if we want to do more business," Cooper said, in a statement seen by The Standard, while addressing government and business delegates at the gathering co-hosted by the African Export-Import Bank.

Cooper said student mobility could flow both ways, with Caribbean universities helping address Africa's skills needs. Technical know-how sharing in manufacturing was another area ripe for partnership, he added.

The Bahamas has already signed memorandums of understanding with pan-African lender Afreximbank to boost financing availability.

Cooper urged African billionaires to purchase property and invest savings in Caribbean stock markets and bonds. "We are open for business," he stressed.

With their combined weight, Cooper said the two regions could also advocate for fairer global financial systems that now marginalize developing states.

Analysts said if realized, Cooper's proposed linkages could help unlock an estimated $1.8 billion in untapped annual trade between Africa and the Caribbean by 2028.

Cooper hoped forum participants would "remember Nassau as the place where deals were done," signaling his administration's firm commitment to broader cooperation. Kenya and the Caribbean countries have been exploring ways of establishing direct air and sea links to enable the free movement of people, goods and services between the two regions.

"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 former President Uhuru Kenyatta said previously.

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 have in the past 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 every year," said International Trade Centre Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton previously. According to Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah opportunities abound in tourism and primary manufacturing as well as the blue economy.

"It is estimated that thousands of Africans visit the Caribbean on vacation annually. Yet, the arrangements for hotel accommodation, transportation and tourism services are made indirectly through agencies neither domiciled in Africa nor the Caribbean," he said.

Prof Oramah further noted that while the Caribbean is awash with fish, Africa imports $4.5 billion of fish and crustaceans from the global market, with the Caribbean accounting for less than one per cent.

"These data provide glimpses of what is possible if we dare," he said.

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