Visa-free travel, easier trade & investment among suggestions to deepen CARICOM/Africa relations

Visa-free travel between the Caribbean and African countries, eliminating obstacles to trade and investment and even an annual Africa-CARICOM summit were among the suggestions floated to help deepen the relations between countries in CARICOM and in Africa.

These suggestions were among those listed by Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne at the historic, inaugural Africa- CARICOM summit held virtually on Tuesday.

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Prime Minister Browne reminded the gathering of Heads of Government and officials that countries in Africa were underdeveloped by Europe after Africans were brought as enslaved people to work in the Caribbean. And, the Europeans left Caribbean economies undeveloped.

With those European countries able to accumulate wealth, Prime Minister Browne said that previous generations of people “could do little to alter that situation”.

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But, the Prime Minister said: “… Our generation should not allow these systems that control us, constrain us, and capture us to continue.”

The Caribbean region and countries in the continent of Africa are part of the Global South, which is generally accepted as those developing countries. These two regions, specifically, have historical ties with thousands of enslaved Africans being brought from Africa to work on the plantations in the Caribbean.

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As such, the CARICOM Chairman called on the leaders to establish “structures of cooperation” to promote mutual socio-economic interests, increase investment and trade and to enhance people to people exchanges.

In so doing, he made proposals that could lead to this enhanced collaboration. Among his suggestions was that the visa requirements for travel should be abolished; this specific proposal ties into the conversation of repatriation of Africans to the continent where their foreparents came from.

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Importantly, he said that the historic event should be an annual event, where the two regional bodies would be able to analyse the global landscape, discuss initiatives and programmes and authorise joint actions.

He also called for the creation of a Forum of African and Caribbean Territories and States (FACTS), managed jointly by the Secretariats of the African Union and CARICOM.

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Within six months, he said a Founding Charter and a Memorandum of Operation of the Forum, including proposals to overcome existing obstacles to trade and investment should be crafted.

“Consideration should be given to a multilateral air services agreement, and an investment protection, as well as, a double taxation agreement between African and Caricom states,” the Prime Minister said.

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And, he emphasised, “Should we agree to establish these pillars of collaboration, I urge both Secretariats not to over-bureaucratize these initiatives.”

This summit is part of efforts between CARICOM and the African Union to achieve shared prosperity by cooperating in a number of sectors and ultimately, work towards improving the lives of citizens in both regions.

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