By Vishani Ragobeer
Countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Africa are hoping to work together to achieve shared prosperity by cooperating in a number of sectors and ultimately, work towards improving the lives of citizens in both regions.
This was communicated during the historic, inaugural CARICOM- Africa summit held on Tuesday. A number of Heads of Governments in both regions participated in this more than three-hour-long summit that was held virtually.
The summit was hosted by Kenya under the theme: “Unity Across Continents and Oceans: Opportunities for Deepening Integration.”
President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta said that the aim of the meeting was to build social, economic and political linkages that will promote shared prosperity and social progress for all the countries.
And, the Kenyan President was the first to list a number of areas he believes the two regions can collaborate on. These include harnessing the vast water resources both the Caribbean and African countries have access to, using technology for economic gain and sustainably managing the massive debt that the countries of both regions have.
Importantly, too, he encouraged the leaders to think about how they can all confront the challenge of climate change, which has implications for worse natural disasters such as increased floods and more severe droughts. And, he said that these two regions should work towards tackling their health woes, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, at the summit, the Kenyan President stated: “… today we are taking the first of our baby steps in what promises to be an incredible journey in fostering closer ties with Africans at home, those in the diaspora as well as all people of African descent.”
President Kenyatta’s sentiments for enhanced cooperation were shared by President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, who said that this summit was being convened at an opportune time as countries around the world prepare for COP 26, a global discussion on the impact of climate change and mitigation efforts slated for November, and the United Nations (UN) General Assembly slated for later this month.
“For us, the global pandemic awakens the harsh reality of the differentiating treatment between the developed and the developing world.
“It also re-emphasises that fundamentally, it is the developing world that suffers the most under these circumstances,” President Ali emphasised.
As such, he advocated for collaboration on the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts, combatting climate change, advancing food security and managing the cost of goods and transportation.
He drew specific attention to the economic debt that countries in the Caribbean and Africa have to grapple with, exacerbated by these countries’ vulnerabilities to the severe effects of climate change- such as increasingly destructive natural disasters.
Similar to advocacy from other CARICOM leaders, President Ali posited, “We must, therefore, collectively advocate for greater financial flows to help us adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency, including through the establishment of a Global Vulnerability Fund.”
And, he shared his conviction that the two regions can collaborate to bring greater prosperity to all people.
The Caribbean region and countries in the continent of Africa are part of the Global South, which is generally accepted as those developing countries. These two regions, specifically, have historical ties with thousands of enslaved Africans being brought from Africa to work on the plantations in the Caribbean.
President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa told the summit that the regions’ common heritage should encourage the leaders to deepen engagement, strengthen trade and investment, collaborate in research and development, and share expertise and knowledge.