Advertisement 87
Advertisement 211
Former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson.
Former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson.
Advertisement 219

By Kenton X. Chance

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – Former Jamaica Prime Minister, Percival J. Patterson, says it is time for action as he rallied Africa and the Caribbean countries to work together to advance their common interest.

“And my message simply is time for talking done. Time for action now. And let us begin with this conference in Nassau, in the presence of Afreximbank,” Patterson told the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) 31st Annual Meeting (AAM2024).

Patterson  joined Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria in a panel discussion titled “A Time to Pause and Reflect: A Global Africa Vision for Afri-Caribbean Socio-Political and Economic Cooperation and Integration – Perspectives of Former Leaders.”

“And let us decide we are going to forge our own path and we are going to finance our own development and we are going to develop our own trading links between us. Nobody will stop us if we act as one,” Patterson said.

Advertisement 21

Patterson noted that African and Caribbean leaders identified six areas of focus during the summit in Barbados three years ago.

“First of all, on the political level, we have to fight to change the United Nations and its structure,” he said, noting that the Security Council is the powerhouse for peace and security and when any of its members has an interest, “we see the inability to act.

“Africa has no position at present,” Patterson said, adding that Africa and the Caribbean must be resolute in demanding change.

“The 54 countries of Africa, 14 countries of the Caribbean, 68 of us, we must demand that Africa has a permanent seat in the Security Council,” Patterson said, adding that the two regions must also demand an overhaul of multilateral lending institutions.

“They call themselves donor agencies. Donor agencies give. Donor agencies do not lend to be paid back. And our whole economic system is lopsided. They create special drawing rights and they get the bulk of it. They don’t respond to the challenges sufficiently of things like COVID and of climate change.”

Patterson said that the third point is within the competence of Africa and Caribbean nations.

“The slave trade must be converted into a trade of goods and services,” he said, pointing out that  Africa only accounts for three per cent of world trade and the Caribbean 0.5 per cent.

“We don’t need anybody’s permission; we can trade among ourselves. If Europe could do it on a triangular basis, we must be able to do it on a direct basis.”

Patterson also emphasised knowledge, saying it has always been the case that knowledge is power.

“But even more so in the age of technology, we must emphasise education. And in the process of education, we must learn about our true selves, the civilisation that emanated from Africa in ancient times.”

He quoted Jamaican reggae sensation,, the late Bob Marley, who echoed the words of Emperor Haile Sellassie when he sang “we are advanced in knowledge”.

“We are one human race. Out of that education, we must insist on technology. And we have seen, particularly in COVID, what happens when we are relying on others for technological information.”

Patterson said his sixth point was an adoption of a meeting taken by Caribbean heads in Nassau in 1993.

“We said the health of our region is the wealth of our region. So the health of Africa and the Caribbean is the wealth of the Caribbean and the region.”

Patterson said he was concerned that the first Africa-Caribbean summit was held three years ago and no arrangements have been made for the second summit.

“I know from experience what is the danger when you start something, however well-intentioned, and you allow your attention to be diverted to other things. BRICS has its place. The G20 has its place. The ACP has its place.

“But nothing must be allowed to interfere with the development of Africa and the Caribbean as one single bloc that acts in concert on the political, economic, and social fronts. And let us decide here in Nassau we will accept nothing less.”

‘Will without action is abortion,: said Obasanjo, who also addressed the issue of acting on intent saying that there are “received ideas that we have taken on … with almost with slavery and slave mentality.

“We have to get out of this and nobody will help us,” the African elder statesman said, adding that one of the first lessons he learnt from his father was not to outsource to others what he can do for himself.

“Because it will not be good enough. We have outsourced our development to others to do for us. The time has come when that should stop,” Obasanjo said.

“We have talked too much and the time has come when it’s no longer tautology, it is action. We have even talked of political will. I now talk of political action. Will without action is abortion. Now, we must have action. And PJ said this is an opportunity.”

He paid tribute to Afreximbank, which in 2023 became the first African institution to open and office in the Caribbean, when it opened a branch in Barbados.

Olusegun Obasanjo
Former Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo said that in opening the office in Bridgetown, Afreximbank had given action to a policy at the inception of the African Union, which was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (1963-1999).

“Because at the inception of AU, we have, as PJ said, five regions and the Caribbean was meant to be the sixth region. Unfortunately, and that is again where the action has to take place, it was meant that when AU meets annually, the president or chairman of CARICOM will be with us.”

Also, the intention was that the chairman of the AU would address meetings of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“Now, these are institutions that must interlink and interact and work together and action together and we can do it. And we have to do more of what Afreximbank has done,” Obasanjo said.

Patterson, noting that the session was about pausing and reflecting, said that in the 70s, the European Union was negotiating with its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

“We started off the negotiations as three separate groups. When we took the political decision that we would negotiate as one group, we were invincible. Because we marshalled all the technical skills to compete on equal terms and footing with the European Union,” he said.

“They had interests in particular resources and commodities in our respective countries. And we said we’re not settling on one until we have settled for all. So it shows what is the result when we come together.”

The three-day meetings have been integrated, for the first time, with the Third AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2024) through Friday.

2 replies on “Former Jamaica prime minister says ‘time for talking done’”

  1. Most people have the best intentions but when it comes right down to it, it always comes up lacking.

Comments closed.