PRIME Minister Philip J. Pierre yesterday placed Saint Lucia’s stamp of approval on proposed plans by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union (AU) for an Annual Summit to promote cooperation between African and Caribbean people and states.
The Saint Lucia PM was among CARICOM leaders who addressed yesterday’s historic first CARICOM-AU Online Summit, hosted by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown.
The meeting had long been a work-in-progress and yesterday it brought together the leaders and the continental and regional entities that together represent 79 nations and over two billion people, to examine areas of increased communication, and cooperation, to face common challenges and grab common opportunities.
The Caribbean and African leaders identified several areas of possible cooperation – from the fight against COVID 19 to sharing of experiences and natural resources to together improve the lot of people on the continent and the region.
President Kenyatta and all other African and Caribbean leaders who spoke noted the historicity of the event — the first time African and Caribbean leaders met in a shared space since the establishment of the Pan African Congress in the 1900s and a subsequent congress in Manchester in 1945.
Many speakers also referred to the summit as achievement of a dream of Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela and nurtured by Bob Marley; and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also referring to the contributions of the likes of Trinidad & Tobago’s George Padmore, CLR James and Eric Williams to earlier Caribbean-African connections.
CARICOM leaders who spoke included PMs of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Brown, Barbados’ Mia Mottley, Belize’s Don Briceno, Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit, Guyana’s President Irfan Ali, Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness, Saint Lucia’s Philip J. Pierre, St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Trinidad & Tobago’s Dr Rowley.
African presentations were by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Presidents of Angola, Malawi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, plus the Vice President of Tanzania.
The Saint Lucia PM, addressing his first global forum of this nature since taking office on July 28, recalled announcing in his August 1, 2021 inaugural Annual Emancipation Day address that his administration plans ‘to take the Caribbean’s real African History to schools and to make Emancipation Day a major annual event.’
Recalling that speech he delivered ‘only four days after taking office,’ PM Pierre also reiterated, ‘As I said then, we strongly believe that while Slavery was abolished over a century ago, the mindset and racial attitudes that brought African people to the Caribbean and the Americas still linger.
He also assured the historic first gathering of African and Caribbean leaders that, under his watch, ‘Saint Lucians will have good reason to remember the struggles of our forefathers, while preserving and protecting the heritage they left us.’
PM Pierre also noted the summit was held more than a century after Emancipation, but also said: ‘It’s never too late to start…’
He said Saint Lucia supported plans to increase the fight against ‘vaccine inequality’ by providing platforms for manufacturing and distribution in the wider region and welcomed sharing of experiences between Africa and the Caribbean, to share COVID-19 experiences and expertise.
He noted that with the region ‘having to import ten times more pharmaceuticals than we produce regionally,’ Saint Lucia supported the related initiative recently-announced by PAHO and the WHO.
The PM said Saint Lucia also supported calls for cooperation in the fight against Climate Change’s effects and was looking forward to the upcoming COP 26th Global Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Scotland ‘to help secure the safety of the planet.’
Pierre said Saint Lucia also supports efforts by the G-77 and China to improve the lot of the developing countries and noted the African Union’s Vision 63 accord was also in line with CARICOM’s adherence to achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Calling for unity to pursue the visions outlined by speakers, PM Pierre said ‘Divisions only delay progress’ and urged fellow leaders to unite in common purpose to achieve objectives.
The vast majority of the speakers expressed support for the summit to be held annually and the summit mandated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya to work with other stakeholders to present a list of proposals, in six months, for consideration for an agenda for the second Caricom-AU Summit.
The meeting also embraced a call by PM Brown for September 7 to be designated annually by CARICOM and the AU as AFRICA-CARIBBEAN Day.
September 7, 2021