African and Caribbean countries move forward with new partnership

Trade and investment links between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union are expected to be significantly strengthened as officials of the African Import-Export Bank (Afreximbank) meet with officials in Bridgetown and the rest of the region.

Afreximbank Chairman Prof Benedict Oramah said he was eager to see significant trade unfold between Africa and the Caribbean.

He told a press briefing on Wednesday that upon his return to Cairo he would discuss with members of his board of directors the possibility of establishing a $ 250 million facility to help the planned trade in goods. and services between the two regions.

Prof Oramah said he has already met with CARICOM Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, several interest groups including the local business community and young entrepreneurs.

“We have agreed in principle that the Africa Export-Import Bank will set up an initial amount of US $ 250 million in a facility that we will call the Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Finance Facility. We are going to put this facility in place so that banks and companies, if they want to do business with each other, have financing to support it. We think this is the first hurdle we need to get over and so we are going to go back and get the board to review and approve it as quickly as possible, ”he said.

He said several priority areas have already been identified where cooperation needs to be strengthened, including tourism and direct air, sea and communication links.

“We need to develop logistics facilities and also work to start diversifying the economies of the Caribbean,” he said.

“We need to find ways to also create investment opportunities for African companies who want to invest in the Caribbean, and many Caribbean companies want to invest in Africa,” he added.

“Afreximbank will welcome Caribbean students on internship every year. We are also discussing how to tie some young Caribbean entrepreneurs to large African companies and vice versa. So these interventions and other plans that we put in place and we will have a continuous dialogue at the level of leaders and policies as well as at the level of companies, ”he explained.

Stating that everyone he came in contact with was ‘ready’ for expanding trade and investment opportunities in Africa, Dr Oramah said he expected a trade deal to be put in place.

“One of the discussions we are having here in Barbados is the possibility of launching the Caribbean Africa Free Trade Agreement. I think the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, as well as the CARICOM Secretariat, would find this very good as it is the only way to start converting intention into something concrete. I would not be surprised if in the very near future these discussions start, ”he said.

Dr Oramah said he was not satisfied with the current low levels of cross-border trade, stressing that Prime Minister Mottley, who has championed strengthening ties between CARICOM and Africa, will continue to engage his colleagues in CARICOM on the matter.

“We agreed on how to move things forward. We expect that we would be the bridge to connect businesses here in the Caribbean and businesses in Africa. There is a lot of interest in getting this started, ”he said, giving assurances that he would continue on his way.

“We didn’t come here to convince anyone, we came here to implement our plan. So everything went very well. We’re just going through the granular details to find out what we need to do to see the results as quickly as possible. There is no doubt that this is a way to improve the lives of our people. We can’t go on the old way because the old way didn’t work for us. We have to find new ways, ”he said.

Oramah was unable to say how soon companies in CARICOM or Africa might expect to trade in the regions, but said he expected all policies to be in place soon. in place and that it would depend heavily on political will. ([email protected])

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