Patterson calls for Caribbean, Africa to increase stake in global trade
Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson wants Africa and the Caribbean to increase their efforts to seize a greater percentage share of the global trade market.
The statesman-in-residence at the P. J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at The University of the West Indies (UWI) on Wednesday urged the Caribbean and Africa not to be satisfied with being on the periphery of global trade.
According to Patterson, the two regions must seek to achieve economic growth and sustainable development within a rules-based multilateral trading system that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) exists to enforce.
He noted that while Africa and the Caribbean constitute one-third of the WTO membership, they account for less than four per cent of global trade.
“Africa’s share is below three per cent and the Caribbean countries are about 0.5 per cent. We cannot – and we will not – be content to remain at the periphery of the global trading system, and we must resolve to enter a new frontier in all six regions of Africa,” the former prime minister declared during the Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum at The UWI, Mona, on Wednesday.
He said that Africa and the Caribbean are confronting a combination of traditional and contemporary crises, contending that the long legacy of colonialism still has a debilitating effect that stifles the enormous development potential of the two regions.
Slavery, according to Patterson, was the most heinous crime against humanity and an evil wave of genocide. He said that colonialism was also abhorrent and iniquitous.
“Between them, countless lives were lost, entire generations perished, and our resources were mercilessly stolen. We must never relinquish our entitlements to full and long overdue reparations even as we persist to attain our inalienable rights to economic freedom, economic self-determination, economic sovereignty, and economic justice,” he said.
The forum, dubbed ‘Key Strategies for Trading and Investing in Africa, Highlighting Opportunities in Sierra Leone’, was intended to strengthen bilateral trade and economic relations between Jamaica and the west African country to foster trade in goods and services and investments between both countries.
Patterson believes that increased trade between Jamaica and Sierra Leone could lead to a broader agreement for a huge market of Caribbean countries.
Jamaica's imports from Sierra Leone in 2020 valued US$242,000 compared to nil in 2019 and US$84,000 in 2018, according to the latest data from TradeMap, part of ITC, a United Nations entity. The data for 2021 were not available.
Jamaica's exports to Sierra Leone were listed as nil over the years.
Patterson holds the view that much can be gained from the blue economy in the Caribbean and the western coastal areas of Africa.
“The prerequisite is for us to be vigorous in defence of the resources of the ocean,” he reasoned.
In his comments, Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Aubyn Hill said that the growth of exports was one of the key areas of focus in his ministry.
“I am prepared to put in the work to find mutually beneficial and sustainable avenues to increase our exports and bilateral trade between the two countries,” he said of Jamaica and Sierra Leone.
“We recognise that while we do not yet have a bilateral agreement that speaks specifically to trade between Jamaica and Africa, we believe that there are profitable opportunities for trade and investment in tourism that can be of significant value,” Hill added.
He said that trade between the regions has been limited, although Jamaica has exported aluminum, bauxite, and other minerals while importing petroleum and other food products from Sierra Leone.
Hill noted that in March 2021, the Government appointed an ambassador and special envoy to Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Togo. This, he said, was another step by the Jamaican Government to deepen relations with Africa and specifically identify opportunities for enhancing trade and investment in support of the island’s economic development.
On Tuesday, Sierra Leone opened a new consular office in Red Hills, St Andrew, as the West African country positions itself to prop up trade relations with Jamaica.