Prime Minister Mia Mottley is calling for closer ties between the African Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in order to tackle a number of challenges that continue to plague both regions.
Addressing the 30th African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) annual meetings in Ghana on Monday, she said the two regions must work together to shape the future they desire.
“It is the political will that first and foremost makes the difference to whether we are prepared to rise to the occasion and to overcome the challenges that hitherto have been placed before us – the challenges that were foisted upon us by colonialism and division, by language, by religion, by those who understood that as long as we could be divided, the dominance of those of a lesser number could preside,” said Mottley.
“I say to us today that we know the power of unity and it cannot simply be in the rhetoric, it needs to be in our actions and in our policies. There must be a blue ribbon commission established between the African Union and the Caribbean Community to put to rest, once and for all, the issues of connectivity – connectivity of transport, but equally connectivity of telecommunications.”
Mottley added that the development banks of the two regions had a duty to work with leaders “to ensure that whatever is necessary to make both the financial and economic case of connectivity, is put in place”.
“We cannot be talking about innovation, we cannot be talking about prosperity and only prepare to look north rather than to look east or west. The only people who can be blamed for the absence of that connectivity now are no longer those who colonised us but those who are in the seat today to make the difference.
“I, therefore, look forward to my brothers and sisters coming together, recognising that while each of us may not have the capacity to do all that we would like to do, we have the ability to pool together to secure that advantage,” she said.
The Prime Minister also noted that the two regions needed to move quickly on cross-functional cooperation in the areas of tourism, education and health, through carefully structured approaches.
This cooperation, she said, must also include procurement to access provisions that are difficult to come by due to size constraints, and in order to get better pricing. Mottley singled out pharmaceuticals as one such area.
“It is not rocket science, it is not impossible,” she said, adding that “these things will not happen by accident.”
The Barbadian leader said she was also looking forward to the CARICOM Development Fund, which has just become a shareholder of the Africa Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank, being able to meet the true needs of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which established the Caribbean Community and the revised treaty which established the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Further recalling that Afreximbank stepped in during the height of the pandemic to provide assistance through the Africa Medical Supplies platform so that CARICOM could source COVID-19 vaccines, Mottley said: “We, therefore, today are simply seeking to build upon that engagement which started in 2020 and which could so easily have been left as an isolated experience.”