The people of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union (AU) on September 7, 2023 recognize the second annual CARICOM-Africa Day, a joyful celebration, yet fraught with the reminders of why we were separated in the first place, and why we remained as distant relatives for so long. Just as large families who haven’t seen in ages meet under the banner of a family reunion, members of these two regions met on this date in 2021, reflecting on the past, but more so, discussing economic and cultural collaborations for the future.
Since that historic gathering, the first Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF) was held in Barbados in 2022, and the Caribbean Export Development Agency embarked on a trade mission in West Africa in the same year, both focusing on boosting trade and investment between Africa and the Caribbean by building connections in the private sector. Also in 2022, a partnership agreement was established between CARICOM and the African Export Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) and as of July 2023, eleven CARICOM member states had signed. The agreement will enable the promotion and financing of South-South trade between African countries and CARICOM Member States. This year, AFREXIMBANK opened its CARICOM Office in Barbados with US$3 billion funding available to participating member states of CARICOM in order to boost the development of trade. Potential synergies between our two regions span air-travel, maritime shipping, renewable energy, agriculture, sport, healthcare, tourism, trade and investment, as well as people to people interactions.
To celebrate, the Regional Integration Unit – Office of the Prime Minister has undertaken a number of activities inclusive of CARICOM-Africa Musings, Did You Know posts, and a message to schools and churches. Musings invites academicians, institutional heads and thought leaders to reflect on various aspects of the CARICOM-Africa relationship over time, and their vision for its future development. These can be found on the Government of Saint Lucia’s Social Media pages, and National Television Network (NTN).
Through the celebration of CARICOM-Africa Day it is envisioned that the connections rooted in history bear fruit of prosperity for our peoples. Today, in Saint Lucia we benefit from the presence of numerous professionals from the African continent who contribute to our society in the fields of medicine, religion, and industry, among others. Let us not only reflect on the cruel hardships of the past, but focus on the many opportunities for collaboration in the future, and of course, those which bear fruit today.