The president of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Gaston Browne, said this week that the region he represents and Africa have the opportunity to advance their economic development if they know how to improve their collaboration effectively.
Browne, also prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that at the opening of the first Caricom-Africa summit, which is being held virtually and hosted by Kenya, it is essential to establish cooperative structures to promote mutual economic interests.
"We must resist being pushed to the margins of international decision making and collaborate to restructure the global financial architecture," Browne maintained.
MEDICAL SUPPLY PLATFORM SUCCESS
He said the success of the African Medical Supply Platform (AMSP), which provided life-saving vaccines to Caribbean countries, has demonstrated the ability of these two blocs to cooperate.
"We have it within our power to demand change in the international system and make it happen," he stressed.
Browne stressed that between the African Union and Caricom nations, they add up to a population of approximately 1.4 billion people in countries with great wealth-generating natural resources such as oil, gas, agriculture, minerals, forestry, and tourism and fisheries, among many others.
"We are the suppliers of vital commodities to the global community and a strong market for goods and services from Europe and North America. In addition, together, we have the voting power of 69 nations in the United Nations and all its subsidiary organizations. We have global bargaining power, but only if it is used effectively," he stressed.
AFRICAN CARIBBEAN DAY
Browne further proposed the nomination of September 7 every year as "African Caribbean Day."
He said there is also the need to create a so-called Forum of African and Caribbean Territories and States (FACTS), jointly administered by the African Union and Caricom secretariats.
"Thirdly, every year, from now on, we should repeat this summit on this day of September 7 to analyze the global situation and our place within it," he proposed.
Fourthly, he said that the African Union and Caricom secretariats should be tasked to submit within six months a founding charter and a memorandum of operation of the forum inaugurated today.
He added that an agreement to favor air links should also be considered and one on double taxation between African states and Caricom.
"I urge both secretariats not to over-bureaucratize these initiatives. Our agreements must be streamlined and efficient," Browne stressed, after calling on the leaders of countries in the two regions to create avenues for agreement between Africa and the Caribbean.
Browne argued that the summit is being held on the premise that Europe caused Africa's underdevelopment and left the Caribbean in a similar situation.
"Today, through their control of the global financial, economic and trading system, the major European nations and their North American allies continue to keep Africa, the Caribbean, and other countries in the trap of underdevelopment," he denounced.
The virtual event is being held under the theme "Unity across continents and oceans: opportunities for deepening integration," with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta leading the way.
Participants in the event include heads of state and government from Caricom and the African Union and senior officials from the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).