It is time that Caribbean and African people stop just knowing about each other and instead “get to know each other”.
That was the message Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley took to Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday and delivered to political and business leaders from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group during a high-level business forum.
Addressing a room that included host President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, Ms. Mottley said:
“For us this is a unique moment, for it signals our intention to really try to claim our destiny. We have an opportunity that, however, must be premised on getting, not to know about each other, but to know each other.
“And there is a big difference. Knowing about each other means we are destined to continue our habits to trade north. Knowing each other means we are likely to take down the walls and begin to understand the values and challenges that confront each of us, and by extension to see the opportunities that are available to bring prosperity among our people.”
The Prime Minister, addressing the gathering on the second full day of an official visit, and less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to address the opening of the full ACP Summit, added:
“And it can’t just simply be about providing jobs; it has to be also about economic enfranchisement, creating a basis for ownership among our people because that is the only way it is going to be sustainable.”
Ms. Mottley told delegates of the laudable objectives the Caribbean pursued with the establishment of the CARICOM single market and single economy, but suggested success was considerably constrained over the past three decades “because we have not been able to produce enough, quick enough, in a way that would have allowed growth to come more seriously to us”.
The “oxygen” that was needed, but which was also consistently in short supply was “people, access to finance and access to trade… but the fundamental issue has always been access to people”.
She added: “Why are we … looking north for investment when we ought to be looking at each other to better mobilise the domestic liquidity we (possess), to invest in each other’s country to diversify … so we are not exposed to our own peculiar challenges as nation-states.
“We need therefore to seek a level of trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific investment within the ACP to help us move from fossil-based economies to ones where we have greater control…. Why are we not working in a cooperative manner to leverage both human and financial capital for all three regions in order to build out whatever industries we determine we are building?”
Roy R. Morris
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister