BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — This past September 1-3, 2022, prominent business, political and cultural leaders from across Africa and the Caribbean gathered in Barbados for the inaugural AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2022), a meeting initiated by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Export Barbados (BIDC), and Invest Barbados with the support of the African Union, the AfCFTA Secretariat, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the Africa Business Council, and the International Trade Centre.
The Pan-African Council joined a number of sponsors supporting the Forum’s central theme: “One People. One Destiny. Uniting and Reimagining Our Future”. The event boasted more than 1500 delegates from 90 countries of the world, including government officials, development partners, trade support institutions, investors and private sector leaders from both regions. On that account, ACTIF2022 aimed to help strengthen relations between the private sectors of the two regions to advance trade and investment.
The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, set the tone of the Forum by delivering a gripping keynote address to an enthusiastic crowd highlighting that “Africa has been separated from the Caribbean region, not only by the Atlantic Ocean, but by centuries of few interactions, despite our shared common descent and history. Barbados, at this time, looks to Africa in pursuit of new relationships and partners with the aim of deepening engagement and cooperation with like-minded nations both bilaterally and multilaterally”.
She insisted that although African and Caribbean peoples have worked together for more than a century in the various Pan-African congresses, our political union, though essential were not sufficient “for the journey that must be made to reverse the underdevelopment of Africa and the underdevelopment of the Caribbean”. In the spirit of South-South cooperation – a concept and practice of cooperation and solidarity among regions of the global south historically disadvantaged by the world system – the Forum stressed the importance of deeper economic ties in order to fortify.
Topping the day’s agenda at #ACTIF_2022 are the business-to-business engagements and panel discussions on several topics, including:
- promoting trade and tourism while improving air links between the regions;
- accelerating industrialisation and manufacturing;
- developing special economic zones (SEZs) and industrial parks;
- improving infrastructure, financing and trade logistics, including regional integration;
- cooperating on health, climate change, and the energy transition;
- fomenting the conditions to accelerate private sector investment; and
- improving food security, agricultural productivity, and expanding agribusiness opportunities.
H.E. Professor Benedict Oramah, Afreximbank President and Chairman of the Board, pointed out that “both regions must forge a common front to harness several opportunities available, including the $27 trillion dollar North American markets”. Simultaneously, Secretary General of CARICOM, Dr. Carla Barnett, highlighted that the potential to do business with Africa was “tremendous” considering that the market represented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) was set to reach US $6.7 trillion in value by 2035.
Fully capitalising on these prospects will entail clear objectives and targets, namely: mobilising the required resources and capabilities; establishing appropriate frameworks, institutions, and business processes; strengthening and streamlining infrastructure such as air and maritime distribution and transportation channels; mobilising all relevant stakeholders including the vast pool of bi-continental and Diaspora talent; and continuously identifying opportunities and creating awareness.
Accordingly, the strong linkages between Africa and the Caribbean based on a shared history, culture, concerns, and common sense of identity underpin the political and individual will for cooperation to fulfil the promises of the Forum. This natural congruence between the two regions have set a new bar in the battle for a more just and sustainable international social and economic order.
As a first step towards this new era of cooperation, ACTIF2022 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most historic events to inspire a new sense of hope, purpose, and dynamism among Caribbean and African peoples.