By Earl Bousquet
Saint Lucia and the Caribbean’s newest prime minister, Philip J. Pierre, will be among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders participating in the long-awaited joint African Union (AU) and CARICOM Summit, today Tuesday, September 7.
Tuesday’s meeting will bring together heads of state and government of the African Union and the Caribbean Community Member States, as well as chair of the African Union Commission and chairs of Africa Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
Others include the ‘CARICOM Troika’ — the CARICOM Secretariat, the Secretary-General of the Organization of the African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the president of the Caribbean Development Bank.
The summit arises from the AU’s 33rd Session in 2020, which affirmed the strong cultural and historical linkages between the people of Africa and Africa Diaspora and all people of African descent.
A press statement from the Kenya ministry of foreign affairs says the theme – ‘Unity Across Continents and Oceans: Opportunities for Deepening Integration’ – aims at ‘Promoting closer collaboration between Africa Diaspora, People of African Descent and the Caribbean and Pacific region and institutions.’
It also indicated “The 2020 AU Session committed to strengthening these linkages and adopted a declaration on promoting closer collaboration between people of African descent in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.’
The Kenya ministry says the summit ‘will aim at actualizing the mutual aspirations’ of both the AU and CARICOM by ‘promoting ties and engagement between its peoples, addressing the economic and communication challenges, fostering continent-to-continent integration, accessing the progress in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and launching of collaboration between African and Caribbean regional continental organizations.’
According to the statement: ‘Debt sustainability and development financing, trade investment and economic integration, blue economy and transport connectivity, fintech-related solutions and political integration between Africa and Caribbean countries will be among the thematic focus areas to be discussed at the Summit.’
Other areas of focus include ‘People-to-People contacts and cultural exchanges, COVID-19 pandemic management and AU-CARICOM collaboration.’
The Summit ‘will also build momentum and support for the formation of the Africa-Brazil-Caribbean (ABC) Development Commission and provide political goodwill and affirmation for activities aimed at forging closer ties with the African Diaspora and People of African Descent.’
Kenya’s expected key outcomes include (but are not limited to) ‘An integrated greater economic trade and investment commitment between Africa and the Caribbean; and solidarity actions to address global challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.’
Regarding COVID 19, the summit ‘will seek to reach and catalyze key strategic decisions and actions to insulate developing countries’ from its scourge, as well as ‘target availability and distribution of vaccines and sharing of best practices in Africa and the Caribbean.’
In addition, it is expected ‘to galvanize voluntary commitments by individual countries and other stakeholders to establish the AU-CARICOM Secretariat and institutionalize AU-CARICOM collaboration.’
The Summit is also expected to formalize hosting similar one bi-annually.
The heads will also discuss ‘their common origin, history, concerns and objectives – and plan a brighter future of collaboration and solidarity.’
The Kenya foreign ministry also anticipates that the deliberations ‘will lead to multiple initiatives of unity, collaboration, institution building and people-to-people exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean as the top leadership from both two regions come together under the new initiative.’
Prime minister Pierre will not only be the most-recently-elected CARICOM prime minister at the virtual table, but it’ll also be his first opportunity to start actualizing his expressed interest (in his August 1, Emancipation Day address to the nation) in taking the true history of Saint Lucia and the Caribbean’s African origins to Saint Lucian schools.
The lengthy agenda also includes areas of immediate interest to Saint Lucia at this time, including sharing progress in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and collaboration between the AU and CARICOM as well as greater economic trade and investment commitment between Africa and the Caribbean.
The summit will open the way for sharing of vaccination experiences and best practices in Africa and the Caribbean.
It will also allow prime minister Pierre – as Saint Lucia’s finance minister and minister for economic development and youth economy – to contribute to the discussions on debt sustainability, development financing, trade, investment, economic integration, blue economy, transport connectivity, Fintech-related solutions and political integration between Africa and Caribbean Countries.
People-to-People contacts and cultural exchanges will also be of special interest to Saint Lucian and Caribbean citizens.
The summit follows earlier steps by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and the CARICOM Secretariat, the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), the University of the West Indies (The UWI), the Center for Reparations Research (CRR) and the P.J. Patterson Center for Caribbean Advocacy to build 20th Century bridges to foster closer direct ties still fettered by distance and cost.
But some member-states have agreed to share costs of jointly hosting a CARICOM Embassy in Africa – and vice versa.
Tuesday’s online summit will be hosted by the son of Kenya’s legendary first president Jomo Kenyatta, who was successfully defended at his colonial trial for leading his people’s independence movement by Jamaica’s own legendary defense counsel and later national security minister, Dudley Thompson.
The president of Ghana, Africa’s first independent nation and to which Saint Lucia’s Sir Arthur Lewis contributed to its first post-independence economic development policy, will also attend.
Saint Lucia’s W. Arthur Lewis and Jamaica’s Marcus ‘Mosiah’ Garvey will almost certainly mention during the summit, at a time when Garvey’s reputation, soiled by the US, has been cleansed at home -and largely abroad; and one year after CARICOM adopted Lewis’ 81-year-old blueprint for reparations to guide its implementation of a regional economic development program with proceeds from the region’s pursuit of reparatory justice from Europe for slavery and native genocide.
The Summit will take place 58 years since the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), 53 years after the founding of the Caribbean Free Trade Organization (CARIFTA) and 48 years after the establishment of CARICOM.