Below is an an extensive excerpt from Prime Minister Andrew Holness's address at the start of Tuesday's Africa Day webinar, titled: "A Conversation with Africa - a destiny of peace, prosperity, strength and unity"
I stand proudly alongside my brother and friend, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, on the occasion of Africa Day 2021, to engage in conversation aimed at forging pathways to Peace, Prosperity, Strength and Unity between continental Africans and other people of African descent.
Today’s conversation will develop a momentum towards identifying actions which we will actively pursue together to improve the lives of our people.
We are resolved that our common goal to create real solutions for a better and stronger future for our people will be realized in this generation.
As a liberated people who have emerged from a history of enslavement, colonialism and oppressive regimes, Africa Day is a special time for celebration and reflection. I am therefore grateful to you, President Ramaphosa, for sharing this platform to engage on such a significant occasion.
I welcome the opportunity to focus on shared ideals for progress, peace, and prosperity which have been aptly captured by the Programme of Activities for the International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015-2024.
The past - the present
In order to address the present, it is important to understand and repair the past which for us carries the abhorrent and centuries-long practices of, enslavement, discrimination and segregation.
On both sides of the Atlantic, we have used the language, rhythm, and tactics of resistance and resilience to secure independence.
Today, we lead conversations which critically assess the true measure of our strides, and shape the journey towards truth, justice, reconciliation and reparations, precursors to any attainment of lasting stability and development in the Continent and its Diaspora.
Today, we also recall our ancestors for their indomitable spirit, and sacrifice, which sustain us and our efforts. We name those we can, including - Cudjoe, Nanny, Tacky, and Sam Sharpe, and reflect deeply on others. We honour them as freedom fighters. We reject any notion of them being criminals and we have so legislated in our Parliament.
It has been thirty-one years since Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom, and six years into the International Decade for People of African Descent, but our collective global journey as African peoples continues in the quest for justice.
This includes eradicating the inequities which have caused persistent poverty and disenfranchisement of the peoples of the Continent and its 6th region, despite our inherent wealth and natural endowment.
These inequities have been magnified by the pandemic, in which the people of African descent have suffered disproportionately, both in health and economic terms.
Our people are also disproportionately affected by climate change, and in the global space, do not enjoy equitable access to education, justice and equal treatment. The imperative is to harness our wealth and resources, and with equal urgency, we need to re-balance existing international and economic structures in favour of our accelerated development and dignity.
Our history teaches us that united, victory is assured - it is the lesson of the Maroon Wars and the struggle against Apartheid. We are inextricably bound by bloodline and a shared history. We must therefore be determined, to complete the mission of being a fully liberated people – economically independent and resilient.
We must strive to overcome systemic and institutional prejudices, inequitable health care and education, and all other residues of enslavement and colonialism, that have undermined our progress and prosperity.
We recognize that our separation geo-spatially and psychologically has had a negative effect on all Africans and people of African descent. We must teach our history, as a celebration of ourselves, grounded in our glorious experiences and not only as oppression. This requires us to re-claim and proclaim our identity and destiny of greatness.
As Prime Minister, I have been clear and consistent in my engagements with our partners, and within regional and multilateral fora, that there must be equity of access to the world’s resources, for all peoples, if we are to have any hope for peace and development globally.
Africa cannot be denied opportunities, nor can the Caribbean, if we are to truly advance the ethos that ‘no one must be left behind’. I say this especially in regard to access to vaccines. It cannot be morally justified that rich countries, many of whom gained their wealth and scientific advantage through the exploitation of Africa and its people, now use this wealth and scientific advantage to hoard and stockpile vaccines while the poor and historically exploited and deprived countries, wait in uncertainty to access equitable and consistent supplies, their populations at risk and their economies on pause. It would be the greatest setback for mankind, if inequitable vaccine access were to cause uneven recovery and a widening of the development gap between rich and poor globally.
I take the opportunity to commend the Government of the Republic of South Africa and in particular, President Ramaphosa for his vision in establishing the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and the African Medical Supplies Platform. I also express deep appreciation for allowing CARICOM countries such as Jamaica, access and participation in these initiatives.
This has not only become a critical lifeline for our COVID-19 vaccination response, but a flagship example of South-South Cooperation on critical developmental matters, leveraging the purchasing power of Africa as a whole on behalf of smaller more dispersed populations.
The longstanding efforts through the World Trade Organization to introduce fairness and balance in the global trading system have long evaded success. The impact on our countries remains worrying. Economic Partnership Agreements introduced a new dimension into the special arrangements which came out of our colonial past, yet the record of performance has been mixed and far from encouraging.
Through you, Mr. President, I also salute the African Union for the advances it has made in the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Association, a model for the rest of us, and one which grows in strength with each accession.
There are significant opportunities for lucrative trade, investment, and tourism links between Africa and the Caribbean, but they have been stymied by a lack of connectivity.
Last December, we were happy to welcome to Jamaica the inaugural direct flight from Nigeria to Kingston by Air Peace Airlines owned by Nigerian business interests. Additional flight arrangements are being pursued to create even more powerful engagement, and exchange of a range of goods and services between the Continent and its Sixth Region.
Recently, the Jamaican Government appointed our first Ambassador/Special Envoy for Investment to Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Togo. We are actively pursuing the trade and investment routes that support our business opportunities. We are preparing to unleash new strategies for travel, trade and investment, anchored in the will of our people to unite.
There is the need for government policies and inter-governmental arrangements to facilitate contacts between our countries to foment even higher levels of trade and investment with economic returns to our people. This will require us to define the goods and services for which we are globally competitive, and re-direct our investment and trade arrangements to include Africa and its Diaspora.
Jamaica is prepared to promote itself as a hub for this type of trade and investment arrangement between Africa and the Caribbean and the Americas. Activating the African Diaspora of the Caribbean and the Americas as the sixth Region of the African Union is an imperative. The formation of the new geo-political force “Africa Group – CARICOM” is a significant milestone to deepen ties on social, economic, cultural and other issues of common interest.
I was looking forward to participating in the first ever Summit of Heads of Government of the African Union and CARICOM, which was contemplated for June last year. Its postponement is sadly another casualty of the pandemic.
We look forward to its eventual convening as we believe this mechanism, among others, will bring us closer to bridging the divide and driving momentum towards a structured modality for engagement.
United we will eradicate the scourge of poverty and the associated ills we have experienced to include extreme inequalities and social instability. United, we will achieve the goal of the global Agenda 2030, and Agenda 2063 of the African Union, to eradicate poverty.
On behalf of our citizens, we will build an international economic order predicated on an equitable distribution of wealth, within and among nations, which supports expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship and creative enterprise. Our common vision of development which focuses on our most important resource, the talents and abilities of our people, compels us to exponentially increase our investment in them. The Culture and Creative Industries require greater investment from governments. Our African and Afro-descendant cultures have competitive advantage and are in great demand internationally.
UNCTAD has indicated that Africans and the people of African descent represent the major element of knowledge and expertise in the creative sector. The United Nations adopted a Resolution declaring 2021 the “International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development”.
Our governments need to increase investments in the creative economy and harness the economic opportunities created by our people’s creative genius.
Within the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport we have launched “Jamaica Creative”, an initiative geared to create an enabling environment for the cultural and creative industries to thrive. Jamaica is also to pioneer legislation governing and streamlining the creative sector.
As we have done with other blocks, it is of utmost importance that we urgently pursue preferential trade and economic arrangements and those which designate creative and other products as local products of Continental Africa, and vice versa.
As we pursue South-South re-alignment, Africans and people of African descent must work together to demand reparations from European colonial powers for the damage caused to our people, who endured over four hundred years of enslavement with continuance in post-slavery governance and economic arrangements. Our engagement with not only countries, but institutions which benefitted from the brutal system of enslavement must also be to that end, and we will provide mechanisms for reparations to be made and paid.
Much work has been carried out by the National Council on Reparation in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Centre for Reparations Research of the University of the West Indies.
Also, the work of the P.J Patterson Centre for Africa Caribbean Advocacy in Jamaica signals the collaborative and necessary work we require of our Universities. We also recognize the work of the Institute for Global African Affairs in Johannesburg and other institutions that the University of the West Indies has established in Continental Africa.
It must be universally acknowledged that every child, on the Continent and in its Diaspora must be assured of high quality, relevant education and access to technology, leveraged to innovate and meet the challenges of our time.
We cannot assure ourselves of peaceful, prosperous, strong and unified societies without technology.
We must be prepared to invest in our people with the innovative and entrepreneurial talent and ability to become globally competitive creators and innovators. We must collaborate in achieving this, using models which already exist to harness the best of our people, and creating new ones where there are none which meet our needs.
In closing, the future of African-Caribbean relations is filled with promise and potential. We have the opportunity to build on our deep emotional ties based on a shared history, culture, and sense of a common identity to forge a partnership that can be a political, social and economic force that can transform the lives of all our people. It will require the investment of time, attention and political will to realize this potential.
Let us unite behind a vision and roadmap towards global African unity which elevates the African people and people of African descent to the highest levels of greatness and possibility. Let us re-commit to the mission of Garvey, Mandela, and Nkrumah to manifest a united Africa and Africans as ‘a great force for good in the world’.