Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking at the ACP business forum in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday. (CMC Photo)

By Kenton X. Chance

NAIROBI, Kenya (CMC) — Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reached out to African investors telling them that size should not be an impediment to business and that profit is not a bad word.

“Never let size be an obstacle for business. Jamaica is a small country, 2. 7 million people, but you would never know. The point is that on the world stage, we have an amplified voice and we speak loudly but we are also agile in business,” he said.

Holness was a panellist at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States’ (ACP) inaugural business summit with the private sector on Sunday, held under the theme, “Economic Transformation of ACP States through Industrialisation and Private Sector Engagement”.

The business summit came ahead of the two-day ACP’s 9th Summit of Heads of State and Government which opened here on Monday under the theme, “A Transformed ACP: Committed to Multilateralism”.

Holness said that since coming to office, in 2016, he made it a point of duty to engage Africa, and has since visited Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, and now Kenya.

He said that the important thing in developing Caribbean-Africa business relationship is also to have a people-to-people understanding.

“And for far too long, we have spoken in glowing terms about relationship but we haven’t really utilised the value of that relationship to layer on top of that the business opportunities,” Holness told the business summit.

He said utilising the people-to-people relationship is a practical way of creating business, adding that for the Caribbean, and Jamaica, in particular, there are already strong fraternal ties with Africa, expressed in music, culture, and sports.

He congratulated Kenya — whose President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta spoke at the opening and was an audience member at the summit — on its performance on the efficiency and competiveness index.

“You are now at 50 and we are 71, but don’t worry, we are going to pass you,” Holness said, laughing, before adding, to applause, “by the way, we are number six in the world in terms of starting a new business”.

The prime minister said Jamaica has had for the last three years the number one stock market in the world.

“It’s a small stock market, you may miss it if you are searching for the international markets, but it should you the level and speed and intensity of business sin Jamaica,” Holness said, adding there is a great opportunity for investors in Kenya and the wider African continent to invest in Jamaica.

Speaking one day after Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley inaugurated the CARICOM Diplomatic Office here, Holness said the bloc has very stable democracies and economic policies, particularly fiscal policies.

“So this is a good environment for investors to consider to place resources but more than that, we are now at a phase in our development where we are emphasising infrastructure and energy, two critical planks of any country’s development,” Holness said, adding that his administration has been investing heavily in infrastructure. 

“It is always a puzzle to me, because China has taken a specific interest, the European countries have taken a specific interest, but we have not yet had and African country taking a specific interest in very profitable infrastructure investments in Jamaica.”

The prime minister said he was using the opportunity to invite African investors to participate in the development of Jamaica.

‘private sector is not the enemy’

Also participating in the panel discussions were the President of Namibia, Hage Geingob and Marcel Ondele, vice-president, Central African States Development Bank.

The discussion followed a similar panel debate that included Prime Minister Mottley and the President of Seychelles, Danny Faure.

The audience included ACP Secretary-General Patrick Gomes and Tony Elumelu — a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has a programme to empower 10,000 young African entrepreneurs.

Holness said it had been said, one way or the other in the forum, that government should get out of the way, in thatregulators should say what they want and then step aside.

“It is absolutely important that governments recognise that the private sector is not the enemy,” Holness said to applause, adding “it is absolutely important that governments understand that ‘profit’ is not a bad word. Absolutely important.”

The Jamaican leader said that like Africa, the Caribbean has gone through phases, and its current phase is trying to determine what is the right role for government.

“Because lurking in the background of this newly-discovered spirit of enthusiasm about industry and commerce and growth is still a large percentage of our population lives in absolute poverty,” Holness said.

“So in the conversation about the economy and the incorporation and the new partnership with the private sector must be within that partnership an understanding that we have to do more in dealing with poverty in our countries.”

He said Elumelu’s efforts is a perfect example of how business with good corporate responsibility, supported by governments can have efficient private sector, efficient businesses making profit, but at the same time address the issues of equity and inequality that has traditionally plagued Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Holness said he believes that ACP countries are at a juncture in their development, “where, if played correctly, if governments understands their role in facilitating businesses, if governments understand their role of curbing corruption, and increasing their legitimacy with their population, and private sector people understand that profit is not just for them, profit is for mankind, then we, as African people, as Caribbean people, as people from the Pacific, can lead in this fourth industrial revolution and truly achieve property for our people”.

9 replies on “Jamaica PM woos African investors”

  1. It is interesting to note that the Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness is asking for foreign investments rather than begging for income support, while stating at the same time “that profit is not a bad word”!

    The idea of profit is an idea that would not go down too well, with the ruling Gonsalves extended family and its political elite here in SVG. A group whose stated model for the nation is Cuba and Venezuela.

    We see too where such a model as Cuba and Venezuela has taken us! It has us on to a road riddled with extensive poverty, nepotism and crony capitalism. It has given us a power elite bent on maintaining their own indomitable survival in office. All to the nation’s detriment.

  2. James dont make me laugh ……Jamaica dont even own or controls their economy . The IMF , world bank china and mainly USA foreign investors own it . with the poor left to suffer with rising inflation . All of their profits are funnel back out of the country and to the corrupt politicians pockets . I wont even touch on crime . Is this your model country ???? lol

  3. Caribbean citizens should be investing in Africa and not vice versa. We are a lot more progressive than many African Countries and well off in terms of GDP per capita. We must say thanks to the motherland by setting up a Caribbean Charity for Africa to support the poorest. It has always amazes me as to why there are no Caribbean charity organization for Africa and if there are why are we not hearing more about them.

  4. You should always pay attention AL and read most carefully. Those are things that you indeed do not do very well.

    If profits for the economy’s benefit to you AL is a bad idea, then you should move to Cuba or Venezuela. For others profit sure make good sense in France, China, the USA, the UK and the rest of the world including Russia.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAQvUEK2OCw

    In SVG however, it is only for the family elite and is gained through Nepotism and Crony Capitalism.

    1. LOL dont change the narrative , I never said profits are a problem , …….but HOW and WHERE those profits are REINVESTED are essential to the economy and welfare of a country James

      fool ah talk but fool nah listen

  5. Caribbean nations would benefit from stronger and deeper economic ties to African nations, an Organization of African Peoples Worldwide. That would be a worthwhile project but, most of the politicians are only interested in looting. Nobody seems to be looking at the long term only at now-for-now benefits so they can boast and appease their voters.

  6. The trouble with SVG AL is that there are neither companies nor profits to be known at all, for in SVG begging is the new norm because of the ULP and the Gonsalves extended family, whose policies works to deter investment, stops company creation and keep Vincentians forever dependant as slaves to their masters. What shameless beggars!

    Welfare has to be earned but in SVG the dependency syndrome sends both individuals and Government shamelessly begging and neither has a problem with that.

    To quote Mo Ibrahim, “Nobody in Africa loves to be a beggar or a recipient of aid. Everywhere I go in Africa, people say, ‘When are we going to stand up on our feet?’” However not so in SVG. Why not so? Because the ULP and the Gonsalves through incompetence and by design, encourage and participate in extensive begging.

  7. As you put it JOLLY, “the last three elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were stolen through bribery and fraud” but me warr know ah how come we, as dis small, small ah nation, have remained so dunce dat we can allow one extended family to teck we back to de plantation wid dem talk, political antics an trickery.

    However, wen me read AL post dem, me get it fo true! Well me say, ah through so many ah we ah so really dunce, why dem did do it so effectively.

    Bout dem love we! Love we whaa? De fat man travel de world, den sit an shovel im food ena im mouth an ah jus get fatter, fatter every day while we jus ah drink white rum fo drown we poverty.

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