• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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African leaders chart ways for Afri-Caribbean free trade agreement

Collaboration – Africa’s business accelerator

African leaders on Thursday charted ways towards an Afri-Caribbean free trade agreement, saying the two regions must work together and remove trade barriers.

According to a report by the International Trade Centre (ITC) Africa and the Caribbean have more than $1 billion in export potential across a range of goods and services sectors.

By tackling trade barriers and channeling investments into sectors with growth potential, such as agrifoods and fertilizers, Africa could increase its merchandise exports to the Caribbean by 54 per cent by 2026. The Caribbean, in turn, could boost its goods exports to Africa by 29 per cent – and its services exports even more.

The African leaders spoke during a plenary session on ‘Towards An Afri-Caribbean Free Trade Agreement: The Pathway to Self-Determination’, at the ongoing 2024 Afreximbank annual meetings, incorporating Africaribbean trade and investment forum, in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite, minister of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), Nigeria, who was one of the panellists emphasised the necessity of a comprehensive strategy to foster the development of the African Caribbean free trade agreement.

“Developing the African Caribbean free trade agreement will require a multi-faceted approach. There is going to be multiple stakeholders involved,” stated Uzoka-Anite, as she highlighted the complexity of the endeavour.

According to Uzoka-Anite, defining the roles of various entities is crucial, including the government, private sector, international development communities, and civil society. “We have to define clearly the roles of everyone…there has to be a multi-stakeholder engagement that will address all the different issues,” she emphasised.

“The success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) today is because the leaders of the African Union put their political will behind it to make it work. We need to see the same thing to make this African and Caribbean countries,” Uzoka-Anite stressed, advocating for strong political commitment from leaders.

Addressing infrastructural challenges, Uzoka-Anite highlighted the need for improved communication and transportation networks. “We need to build the seaport, airport, road network, digital infrastructure for communication to happen,” she pointed out.

Furthermore, Uzoka-Anite emphasized the importance of harmonizing trade policies at various levels, including continental, regional, global, and bilateral agreements. “We need to make these policy frameworks aligned to make this happen,” she asserted.

“Incentivising the private sector to participate is essential,” Uzoka-Anite concluded, emphasising its role in driving economic development. “There should be different things that will help to incentivise the private sector to participate,” she added.

Other panellists who spoke included Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Materials, Christopher Edordu, Former President of Afreximbank, and Albert Ramdin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname. Didacus Jules, Director General, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre.

Muchanga disclosed that there will be a signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the African Union and the Caribbean on a free trade agreement.

The panellists unanimously agreed that Africa and the Caribbean need to work together and have a common position. “Global architecture is evolving and we need to be part of it. We need to know each other. We must go together, be realistic, and connect the people and the private sector,” they agreed.