TCI Youth Shine at the Caribbean Youth Congress of the Caribbean Tourism Organization – Magnetic Media

By Melissa Rollock

Barbados GIS

Africa accounted for just 2% of total Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade in 2018, before the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, trade between the two regions has been negatively impacted.

However, CARICOM Secretary General Dr. Carla Barnett believes the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum, which kicked off today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, is an important first step in the expansion and deepening trade relations between the African continent and CARICOM.

The Secretary-General stressed at the opening ceremony that the potential for doing business with Africa was “enormous”, noting that the market represented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is expected to reach $6.7 trillion. US dollars in value by 2035.

She further stated that to increase trade and investment flows between the Caribbean Community and Africa, infrastructure such as air and sea distribution and transportation channels needed to be strengthened and streamlined.

“We must move on to establishing a multilateral air services agreement between African countries and the Community. Using this forum and other mechanisms such as our mutual membership in the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, we can continue to promote and build business-to-business contacts through networks of organizations private sector and business development support organizations such as Caribbean Export, which is our regional trade and investment promotion agency. In CARICOM, we look forward to concluding the memorandum of understanding agreement between the CARICOM and African Union Secretariats to strengthen collaboration to support this process,” said Dr Barnett.

Illustrating the need to strengthen trade relations, she explained that in 2018, CARICOM exports to the rest of the world amounted to US$18.6 billion, with total exports to Africa of only 815 million US dollars. CARICOM exports to Africa accounted for 4.4% of its exports. That same year, CARICOM imports from the world totaled US$33 billion, with imports from Africa amounting to US$603 million. Africa accounted for only about 2 per cent of the Caribbean Community’s total trade.

Currently, major exports to Africa include anhydrous ammonia, alumina, oil drilling tubing, sauces and condiments, and frozen orange juice concentrate. The main markets are Morocco, Ghana and South Africa. The top 10 imports from Africa include liquefied natural gas, vehicles, barium sulphate, bitumen and coriander, with the main sources being Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.

Citing the benefits the Community offered to investors, she said the region performed well in service sectors such as travel, tourism and financial services. Additionally, Dr Barnett said they are working to transform the agricultural and industrial sectors.

“Our agriculture initiative 25 by 2025 (reducing the region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025) is already gaining momentum. We promote investment in agriculture, including two excellent agricultural investment expos that have taken place so far. And we are supporting this with decisive actions to eliminate trade barriers and promote productivity across the region. Work has begun on an industrial policy that will complement the positive steps already underway in agriculture,” she shared.

The secretary-general said CARICOM also offers investors “a gateway to partner markets”, pointing out that its preferential trade agreements with several neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean “and others” offer important opportunities for access to markets. She noted that these markets together accounted for US$11 trillion in imports of goods and services.

Dr Barnette said that with the African Continental Free Trade Area and the CSME presenting strong platforms for trade and economic cooperation, she expected the “first” Forum on Trade and AfriCaribbean investment to be a success.

Virginia S. Braud