Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn (left) and President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Professor Benedict Oramah, in discussion prior to the latter’s departure. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, has described the recent visit of the President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Professor Benedict Oramah, as “very productive”, with officials eager to build on the foundation laid.

Mr. Straughn said the four-day visit went “really well” and there were a number of key action points which they would follow up on over the next few weeks, to ensure there was a clear timeline on both sides, with respect to what was required.

“There are about 14 specific actions we have agreed to.  One of the important action items is the potential establishment of an office of the Afreximbank in Barbados, and that’s something that the Ministry will work towards establishing as soon as possible.

“Coming out of the visit, there is an agreement between the bank and The University of the West Indies to host four undergraduate interns at their offices across Africa, which is a tremendous opportunity to expose young people to see and understand business in Africa,” the Minister stated.

He identified the establishment of a $US250 million line of credit by Afreximbank to facilitate business and trade flows to help entrepreneurs in Barbados and the region, as one of the “early wins” of the visit. He said this initiative would help to finance recovery, which was now necessary because of the pandemic.

“The Ministry of Finance will work with the other government officials and stakeholders to put the plan of action in place, so that the officials of Afreximbank and the Government of Barbados, on a monthly basis, can report progress between them,” he stated.

Mr. Straughn noted that because of the pandemic, the delegation was not as large as it would normally be. However, he pointed out that the bank officials had committed to returning with a group of businessmen and young people, to assist in giving further exposure, and developing business linkages between persons in Barbados and the region.

“So, we are really looking forward to the continued engagement over the next few weeks, in order to concretise the action items that we have agreed on,” he added.

Minister Straughn said, from all reports, the private sector was excited about the prospects, including the opportunities for agriculture and renewable energy investment. 

He indicated that they were looking forward to receiving information through the African Trade Portal and the due diligence platforms to assist them in making critical decisions.

Before his departure, President Oramah described his visit as “a remarkable experience”. He said these partnerships Africa and the Caribbean were seeking to form could improve their well-being; begin to take them out of poverty, and make them countries and economies that “will be a force to reckon with in the global space”.

He continued: “We agreed that we’ll work together to bring Barbados and potentially all the CARICOM countries into Afreximbank, so that our present bank can be the anchor for the economic integration we are all hoping for.

“We also agreed that we will work very hard to put in place the transportation links that should drive these aspirations – the air link, the sea link, whatever it takes that we have to do.”

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