NAIROBI – The Prime Minister’s swing through the African continent today racked up a series of ambitious agreements with a counterpart leader that she hopes will fast track diplomacy and international cooperation on a scale not enjoyed by any of her predecessors.
After pledging to deepen ties with Ghana on a trip to the West African nation that is believed an original homeland of most Barbadians’ ancestors, she travelled to East Africa where she joined Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for bilateral talks in the Kenyan capital, wrapping up a series of speeches among fellow member nations of the developing world, and pledging unprecedented levels of bilateral cooperation and speed of implementation.
During informal talks, Mottley and Kenyatta agreed on a number of areas of cooperation for which the technocrats were yet to start drawing up the documentation, boasting that civil servants will be shocked by the two leaders’ efforts.
They then signed three Memoranda of Understanding; served notice that a number of others would be completed within weeks; confirmed that officials from both countries would be visiting each other early in January and noted that other Caribbean countries and the wider African community would factor significantly in all moves, according to a Barbados Government statement.
The cooperation agreement is set to get into gear as soon as next month, when the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya is to travel to Barbados, along with officials of the Securities Exchange Commission, to finalise cooperation and regulation details to allow Kenyan banks to invest in Barbados through commercial services and correspondent banking.
The Principal of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Most Honourable Eudine Barriteau and a team from the university are expected in Kenya early in the new year to complete arrangements with the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University to allow UWI student doctors to intern there, while medical students from Kenya would complete their training at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the UWI’s teaching hospital here.
The universities are also to finalise arrangements in business studies, while officials are to work on plans for exchanges between primary and secondary schools.
The leaders also promised speedy progress of creating air and sea links between East Africa and the Caribbean, mechanisms to streamline tax systems for companies doing business in the two jurisdictions, and a new draft MOU on trade and investment.
Kenya, which has been an earlier pioneer in mobile banking and payments is to tapped for an initiative the two leaders touted that “would transform mobile banking in Barbados and the rest of the region”, according to the government statement.
The two countries are also ironing out cooperation on the fledgeling National Botanical Garden, information and communication technology and the planning for a first-ever CARICOM/African Union Summit next year.
At a joint press conference after their talks, Prime Minister Mottley explained: “But the people of our countries will ask, what does that mean for us? How do these agreements change the quality of our lives from day to day?
“And the truth is that this is just the architecture that we are building to be able to unleash the potential of our two peoples.
“Yesterday, we had the good fortune of being hosted by the Governor of the Central Bank and the indigenous banks of Kenya and some of the fin-tech companies.
“And we will host your indigenous banks within six weeks in Barbados to begin to explore the opportunities of them investing into our part of the world.”
Mottley continued: “I believe that this is the beginning of a true, true partnership that can make the difference not just to the people of Kenya and to the people of Barbados, but I believe that we are, by taking hold of our future, saying to the rest of the world that the centuries of separation must now be left on the books of history rather than be part and parcel of our arrangements for the future.
“And to that extent, if we can solidify the transport links by building the air and sea bridges, then I believe we will be unlocking the potential of our two regions.”
As the Prime Minister reciprocated the East African head of state’s visit to Barbados earlier this year, she attended the just-ended African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group summit in the Kenyan capital, then began a state visit with the review of a Kenyan military guard of honour.
She later laid a wreath at the memorial of the Kenyan president’s father, father of the nation Jomo Kenyatta and met with senior United Nations diplomats at the Nairobi office and planted a tree there.