#Barbados, May 27, 2021 – Africa Day holds a place of great significance for us of the Caribbean Community because it reminds us of our inter-connectedness with Africa and the worldwide African Diaspora. This interconnectedness is based not only on shared ancestry but also on a shared liberation and developmental struggle.
Those of us who know the history of Africa Day will know that it began on the 25th of May 1963 – the historic day on which the leaders of the then independent nations of Africa gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and succeeded in establishing the Organisation of African Unity. Back then, the pressing priority for the independent African nations was to consolidate their unity and to use that unity to secure the total decolonisation of the African continent. And so, they designated the 25th of May as “African Liberation Day”.
And, needless to say, in 1963, the nations and people of our Caribbean region embarked upon an identical mission. Back then, of all the British Caribbean colonies, only two – Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – had managed to secure their independence. And so, we too had a pressing priority to consolidate our unity and to use that unity to secure the decolonisation of our region.
And the record shows that we accomplished that unity with the establishment of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) in 1968, with CARIFTA’s evolution into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1973, and with our largely successful Caribbean decolonisation project. What a mirroring of Africa’s own journey from the OAU to the African Union (AU) in 2001, and from a substantially colonised continent in 1963 to the completely independent Africa that exists today!
Indeed, today – more than ever – Africa and the Caribbean are interconnected, as we forge ahead in joint efforts to build out our new Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), and as we intensify the process of establishing embassies and other diplomatic offices in both regions. In addition, we look forward to the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It will be the world’s largest free trade area with the potential to transform development in all of its facets across the entire African continent making it an even stronger regional powerhouse.
Let me say that while COVID-19 curtailed our planned Africa Union/CARICOM Summit last year, it has not dampened our determination to deepen cooperation for the benefit of our peoples. In fact, we are looking forward to the virtual version of this important forum next month. Barbados is committed to cementing these ties in the most tangible way.
I, therefore, feel extremely confident in asserting that the future of Africa/Caribbean relations has never been brighter and more promising.
Happy Africa Day to all my brothers and sisters!