Sustaining the vision of the CARICOM-African Summit

Kenyan President Uhuru
Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration as president of Kenya, 2013 (Photo credit: Ben Curtis, AP Images)

The historic first CARICOM-Africa Summit hosted by President Uhuru of Kenya on 7 September 2021 is a welcome development. This is not the first time that efforts have been made to forge closer relationships between the African Diaspora and the continent. Since the days of Marcus Garvey, when he campaigned for an end to European colonial rule in Africa and the political unification of the continent, to the Trinidadian Pan-Africanist George Padmore a close associate of Kwame Nkrumah, efforts have been made in diverse ways to forge a stronger relationship between Africa and the African Diaspora especially in the Caribbean.  Changing political seasons of governments, economic challenges faced by countries and distance has continued to elude this dream.

The question that needs to be asked is how this first summit and previous experiences can be channeled to make the outcome of the Summit sustainable and relevant to Africa and the African Diaspora community. Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nana Akuffo-Addo have visited the Caribbean region in the last couple of years which shows a determination to make things different this time around. At the summit, Prime Minister Holness called on CARICOM countries to explore opportunities within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to facilitate joint investments in tourism, agro-industry, digitization, scientific research and the creative economy.

The challenge faced by this not so new initiative is that the current visionaries and drivers such as President Uhuru of Kenya and Nana Akuffo-Addo of Ghana would soon come to the end of their terms in office, so how do we keep the flame burning?

President Uhuru has promised to support the establishment of a secretariat through which the outcome of the summit could be implemented. However, we need to be cautious of deploying instruments which in the past have not proved to be the right tools in achieving certain objectives. Secretariats tend to be located far from those they are meant to serve and, in most cases, tend to be very disconnected from issues that they are meant to deal with. They also tend to consume huge resources at the expense of the objectives for which they were established. The international landscape is replete with tens of secretariats which have not been able to achieve their aims and objectives.

For there to be long-term sustainability of the outcomes of the summit, it is important that both CARICOM and African leaders anchor the outcomes into contemporary challenges faced by both regions including climate change, health and COVID-19, debt sustainability and poverty reduction. Some of these challenges can be mainstreamed into specific programmes for the CARICOM and African regions through institutions such as the Organisation of African Cariforum and Pacific States (OACPS) in the areas of education, culture and arts, agriculture, transportation and so on having been developed into specific programmes for implementation. This would ensure that the implementation of the outcomes serve to complement the development agenda of individual countries. Member States should also ensure that the outcomes of the summit are institutionalized and mainstreamed into both CARICOM and African Union programmes to guarantee funding for implementation. Both regions also need to identify champions to drive the vision forward. These could be retired heads of state to be advocates for CARICOM-Africa relationship.  Above all, the citizens and beneficiaries of both regions need to see the benefits and opportunities for their countries including opportunities from a common heritage leading to sustainable development and poverty reduction. In doing so the efforts and vision of Pan-African Greats such as Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah would have been realized in our generation.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *