Historic first CARICOM-Africa Summit takes place

In the first-ever summit of its kind, leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Africa came together in Kenya to discuss the challenges facing the shared culture and address many issues. The summit was hosted by Kenya on 7th September, 2021. Bolstering people to people ties, connectivity, trade and fostering unity among the regions were the key takeaways of this historic summit.

African origin people dominate the Caribbean countries where the original Amerindians were decimated from colonial rampage. The indentured labourers were sourced mostly from Africa although many Indian origin people were also exported by colonial countries. Following independence, these Afro-Caribbean communities became beautiful composite cultures. The Afro-Caribbean meet is a positive development as the United Nations celebrates the decade of African descent.

During the meet, the CARICOM chair Gaston Browne and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, proposed to celebrate September 7th as the “Africa-CARICOM Day.” He also proposed the creation of a forum of African & CARICOM territory and states (FACTS), air transport, taxation and investment agreements. The summit decided to setup institutional cooperation between the secretariat of CARICOM and African Secretariat.

President Kenyatta, the host and President of Kenya raised concerns about COVID pandemic, climate change and debt sustainability, inviting cooperation between regions on health, technology and blue economy. Leaders at the summit indicated willingness to expedite cooperation on blue economy with trade and transport agreements to be discussed in later stages.

The leaders lauded the support of African Medical Supplies Forum in making Coronavirus vaccines available to the Caribbean region and called for waiver of intellectual property rights on them for local manufacturing. The issue has been particularly important for the poorer developing nations who are still finding it difficult to secure vaccine supplies.
Both the regions are proponents of multilateralism and in accordance with shared objectives, decided to cooperate on upcoming COP26 on climate action. In a shared struggle for justice and reparations, both decided to participate fully in the UN World Conference against Racism. They also called against the economic sanctions on Cuba and Zimbabwe. A planned CARICOM diplomatic mission in Nairobi was also unveiled.

The South-South Cooperation and African solidarity connect among regions is an exceptional development. It strengthens the bond between developing countries of Africa and other regions who are increasingly looking for multilateralism as a way to manoeuvre the new polarized world order. For example, Africa has been struggling to find Vaccines and cooperation within World Health Organization has been hampered by a tough geo-political climate.
However, the summit fell short of any conclusive results. Most of the topics discussed were stressed but there were no concrete treaties or agreements signed during the meet. Even the agreements on trade, Covid engagement and transport were not specifically detailed.

The coming together of the staunch anti-racist anti-colonial groupings can be both good and bad for international alignments. While it is good that the huge developing market can be consolidated, there remain political challenges to it. The Caribbean countries have failed to establish a single market under CARICOM. The international grouping may become another arena of lobbying and influence diplomacy for other countries. Some countries aligned against pro-humanitarian states will find it easier to use their anti-colonial anti-racist tone to coax the bloc. The summit was historical despite shortcomings. Setting up a joint forum and deciding to hold the summit annually will certainly increase solidarity between the regions. The pandemic vaccination is concluding in developed countries and much of Asia. But Africa is barely vaccinated and Caribbean has a long way to go too. This can be the beginning of a successful partnership for already flourishing solidarity.

Photo Credit : https://twitter.com/CARICOMorg/status/1434956956238819331/photo/1