Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s address to the inaugural CARICOM-Africa Summit which was held virtually today. (PMO)

The inaugural CARICOM-Africa Summit has been described as a “very successful” and “productive discussion”, which laid “a firm foundation” to build strong political, cultural and social economic cooperation for people of African descent.

President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who chaired the meeting, expressed this view as he wrapped up the session.

“We agreed to work together across our two regions to define our priorities and ensure that the global response is aligned to our unique challenges. These risks, I believe, also present us with opportunities to collectively think outside of the box, and recognise and seize the opportunities presented by these crises,” he stated.

During the opening of the conference, Mr. Kenyatta outlined several areas in which Africa and CARICOM could work together and listed them as the blue economy, climate change, health, debt sustainability and technology.

He noted that Africa and the Caribbean had enormous resources in the blue economy. “This presents enormous opportunities to strengthen and foster innovative partnerships across the two regions to sustainably exploit and harness the potential of the blue economy. Sustainable exploitation of these resources will no doubt boost economic prosperity; expand creation of decent jobs, and strengthen food security in our two regions,” he proffered.

With regard to climate change, he said it was imperative that Africa and CARICOM incorporated climate action into their national policies, and long-term development plans, as well as adopt global best practices to mitigate and adapt to the threats posed.

President Kenyatta surmised that the COVID-19 pandemic had stretched health systems and challenged traditional approaches to public health. He noted that the governments in these two regions were struggling to obtain needed COVID-19 vaccines.

“In fact, in the early days of the pandemic, we experienced serious challenges with supply of personal protective equipment, medical oxygen, as well as ventilators. This … is a wakeup call for all of us in the developing world. We must do what it is to build our own manufacturing capacity for vaccines and critical medical supplies. In addition, we must strengthen research, surveillance and monitoring capacity in order to mount effective responses to COVID-19 and other possible pandemics in the future,” he suggested.

Mr. Kenyatta said debt sustainability was a huge challenge, and the two regions needed to come together to build on the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. He added that they must proactively seek strategies to increase revenues, while prioritising spending that enhances the productive capacities of their respective economies.

He noted that the area of technology provides endless opportunities to leapfrog their economies and identified the FinTech industry as being underdeveloped.

“About 66 per cent of the African adult population is unbanked, while in the Caribbean region, the FinTech startup ecosystem is still evolving. We have an opportunity to develop collaboration that will enable us to create a raft of tech-based products and solutions. Solutions that will promote financial inclusion by providing improved access to affordable and efficient financial services, especially to the unbanked,” President Kenyatta stated.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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