By Kenton X. Chance
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley says Africa and the Caribbean must move to having inter-regional sports meets, adding that sport and culture would “perhaps explode the opportunities and the awareness” of the general populations of both regions.
She made the point here on Monday during the opening ceremony of the two-day AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF23), shortly before signing a loan agreement with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Afreximbak is lending Barbados US$25 million to help with its preparation to host games in the Cricket World Cup next year and Mottley said the money will, in part, go toward refurbishing the country’s main cricket facility, Kensington Oval.
“… we’re borrowing also to the development of the game and the establishment of indoor facilities and other things that will help our cricketers be able to move to the next level,” Mottley said.
“This region must give our cricketers the best available coaching and technology if they’re actually to be able to resume their global position in cricket,” she said.
“The reality is that others have come and done that which we have not done, and then we complain. And then we wonder about what the fellas doing and why they ain’t performing and why they ain’t doing so,” she said.
She was referring to the Caribbean cricket team, West Indies, which often leaves fans disappointed by their lacklustre performance decades after the regional team dominated the game globally .
“If we in the government understand the importance of deconstruction and reconstruction in order to make governance appropriate to the age in which we live, then surely we must be able to give our cricketers the tools to allow them to dissect in fine detail the batting, the bowling, the fielding and the practices of all of the people among their own team, but also all of the people against whom they will compete on the field,” Mottley said.
“And I thank the Africa Ex-Im Bank for agreeing to lend us the money. I believe it will be 25 million US at 7% over seven years. And it is highly competitive and highly appropriate and thank you.”
Mottley said Africa and the Caribbean must find a way for each region’s football teams to play in the other’s region “as a matter of urgency.
“We must find a way for road tennis to be a sport played in every community across Africa and the Caribbean as we play it in Barbados. We must find a way for cricket, which we will dominate, I hope, in the future again, and for which we still have the global excellence among our legends, to be able to go into those countries in Africa that have a taste for cricket,” the Barbados leader said.
She said she knows that Rwanda has expressed “a desire for that level of support because they, too, understand that after the Olympics and after football, cricket is the third largest global sporting event.
“We must find a way for athletes — the sprinters from Jamaica and the long distance runners from Kenya and other parts of East Africa — to work together to have a level of global dominance not just at the Olympics or the World Championships, but in the same way Europe can have professional meets all through the summer, Africa and the Caribbean must be the place where people come to see top-class athletics.”
The prime minister said she used to manage a band, adding that Africa and the Caribbean must find ways for their artistes, filmmakers and musicians to be able perform in each other’s region.
Mottley said she had seen at the Brooklyn Museum “a wonderful exhibition” by the Alara Lagos company.
“… but the linkages in our music between highlife and calypso, the ability to have Rocky Dawuni do and be a Grammy nominated artiste in the same way and when he sings ‘Night Nurse’, he ain’t saying night nurse Gregory, he saying night nurse Dawuni. You understand?
“That is who we are. And that is why the world admires us for our flair and our creativity,” Mottley said.
“And we must not put it behind us because this is one of our greatest assets. And it is one of our greatest assets also, to bridging gaps and building peace. And I, therefore, hope that we not only focus on the traditional areas, but we understand the power now that sports and culture gives us in being able to deepen the solidarity and expand the business markets necessary for our hoteliers, our purchases of all goods and commodities, because it is within our reach.”