President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday advocated for the forging of closer working partnerships between African and Caribbean nations so as to raise their power of overcoming common challenges such as Covid-19, climate change and public debt.
Speaking when he hosted the first African-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of State and Government meeting, President Kenyatta said leaders of the two regions need to deepen the existing historical and cultural ties that bind their nations so as to build strong socio-economic and political linkages that will promote shared prosperity and social progress.
The inaugural virtual meeting whose theme was, “unity across continents and oceans: opportunities for deepening integration,” sought to promote closer collaboration between Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries including their diaspora and institutions.
“As we begin this journey, I would like to invoke the words of Martin Luther King Jr. And I quote: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. African and Caribbean cultural and political ties run deep based on a shared history, culture, as well as a sense of a common identity.
“Our common historical experiences of slavery and colonialism inspired Africa’s founding fathers to form the Pan-African Movement in the 1900. This movement was championed by the Africans in the diaspora, which established the foundations of a rich and vibrant African-Caribbean relationship,” President Kenyatta said.
He challenged leaders of the two regions to exploit the opportunities presented by historical relationships to achieve aspirations of African and Caribbean states through enhanced economic, social and cultural cooperation.
The Head of State outlined five key areas of cooperation namely, blue economy, climate change, health and Covid-19, debt sustainability and technology which he said are crucial as the two regions initiate working partnerships.
On blue economy, the President said Africa and the Caribbean are endowed with enormous ocean resources which if exploited sustainably would help spur economic prosperity, create jobs and strengthen food security.
“The African continent has 38 coastal and island states and a coastline of over 47,000 kilometers. And for all member states of the CARICOM, they enjoy access to approximately 1 million square miles of the Caribbean Sea.
“This presents enormous opportunities to strengthen and foster innovative partnerships across the two regions to sustainably harness the immense potential of the blue economy,” the Head of State said.
President Kenyatta, who is also the current President-in-Office of the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), said climate change remains an existential threat to the two regions emphasizing the need to incorporate climate action into the countries’ national policies and long-term development plans besides adopting global best practices to mitigate and adapt to threats posed by the phenomenon.
“In Africa, extreme swings in temperature and rainfall patterns, have for instance, significantly increased habitat suitability for biting insects and the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever.
“Similarly, in the Caribbean region, climate extremes in the last few decades have had devastating impacts on economies and livelihoods; and have led to a rise in sea levels and increased ocean acidification,” he said.
President Kenyatta said Covid-19 pandemic is a wake up call for the developing nations to build their vaccine manufacturing and other critical medical supplies saying the outbreak has redefined health systems across the developing world.
In the early days of the pandemic,the President said the two regions experienced serious challenges with the supply of l
personal protective equipment, medical oxygen and ventilators, saying developing nations need to strengthen their research, surveillance and monitoring capacities in order to mount effective responses to Covid-19 and future pandemics.
He pointed out that African and Carribean countries have been held back by mounting foreign debt since their independence, a situation the Kenyan Head of said had been exacerbated by Covid-19.
President Kenyatta challenged the countries to embrace new technologies so as to create all-inclusive solutions and work together in formulating strategies to increase revenues and optimise their expenditures on activities that catalyse economic output.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda who is also the current Chairman of CARICOM Gaston Browne challenged African and Caribbean nations to work together saying the countries wield formidable global bargaining power.
Prime Minister Browne said the success of the African Union’s Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), which helped procure Covid-19 vaccines and other supplies for Caribbean and African nations had demonstrated the two regions immense potential.
“We must establish structures of cooperation to promote our mutual socio-economic interests; increasing investment and trade, and people-to-people exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean.
“We should resist being pushed to the margins of international decision-making and collaborate on decisions to restructure the global financial architecture, on global taxation, derisking, climate change and reparations among others.
The leaders who addressed the meeting, among them President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and Prime Minister Keith Rowley (Trinidad and Tobago), explored avenues of collaboration between Africa and the Caribbean including promotion and expansion of trade and investments, focussing on new areas such as fintech, and blue economy.
A communique of the meeting was read by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo at the close of the summit.