Caribbean keen to expand US$1bn export trade with ECOWAS


Chairperson of the Board of Directors, the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Dr. Lynette Holder, has revealed plans to increase trade and investment volumes of US$1billion generated through exports from West African countries to the Caribbean annually.

According to her, Africa – particularly Ghana – presents opportunities for Caribbean businesses to set up and be able to reach out to the rest of the continent and vice versa, under a broader plan to deepen trade and investment relations. She explained that the plan is to encourage businesses from both sides to establish partnerships, leveraging expertise to achieve mutually beneficial goals and growth.

“Ghana, aside from the numerous products that you have, is also endowed with expertise and competence in many areas. For example, in the area of renewable energy you have made a massive stride. We in the Caribbean are the most climate-vulnerable region on the planet, and we can pay for your great technical expertise to propel us toward the green energy transition,” Ms. Holder elaborated.

She spoke at the Ghana-Caribbean Trade Mission 23 organised by the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) in Ghana, and noted that the Caribbean private sector – through its inaugural mission to Ghana – aims at forging relationships with key market partners, both private and public, facilitating knowledge and technology transfer while sharing best practices.

The mission’s aim is to provide innovative, targetted initiatives to enhance Caribbean-Ghana relations, business growth, sustainability and job creation.

While recognising the imperativeness of accessing new markets, she noted that the Caribbean Export Development Agency – representing a market size close to 30 million people, has been working to consolidate existing ones.

Citing the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Trade Map in 2021, she explained that Africa’s exports to the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) region represents a mere 0.001 percent of its total exports, while its imports from the Caribbean constitute 0.002 percent of its total imports.

However, with the potential of Ghana’s power sector reaching 77 percent renewable generation by 2040, according to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projections, she underscored the need for Caribbean nations to build business partnerships with the country in this area of necessity.

Worryingly, she noted that although Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s non-cultivated arable lands, its food imports amount to US$25billion annually – about five times the Caribbean’s net food import bill. This high import bill is disturbing, calling for efforts to ensure sufficient food production.

“The shift in African and Caribbean development agendas highlights similarities and ambitions toward food security and the inclusion of smart technologies to retool and reshape traditional sectors such as agriculture and financial services. According to the global think-tank Overseas Development Institute (ODI), agriculture technology (Ag Tech) is attracting investment from non-traditional sources including private equity firms – which have invested US$425million in East Africa between 2015 and 2017,” she said.

Furthermore, in the area of financial technology (Fintech), she indicated that Africa has seen unprecedented growth. Referencing a report by Business Insider, she indicated that the continent’s fintech market has been accelerating as start-up companies secured US$330.5million in the first half of 2021, which is more than double the amount raised in 2020 – adding that this comes as Internet and mobile usage continues to grow.

Memorandum of understanding

To give impetus to efforts aimed at improving trade between the Caribbean, Ghana and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the local private sector and Caribbean Export Development Agency.

The MoU’s aim is to promote trade between both parties.

Ginger Moxey, Minister for Grand Bahama, Government of the Bahamas, speaking at the ceremony underscored the importance of facilitating international trade, connecting the Caribbean with global markets, and fostering regional economic integration.

With regard to Ghana, she said, while its strategic location, developed infrastructure, connectivity and commitment to trade facilitation have collectively established it as a major trans-shipment hub in West Africa, the country’s efforts to optimise its position in the global supply chain have benefitted its own economy and contributed to economic development of the entire region.

For her part, Sandra Husbands, Barbados’ Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Business Development, addressed the audience assured of her country’s commitment to developing and strengthening the frameworks necessary to encourage trade and investment between the Caribbean and Africa. “We therefore hope that this inaugural visit will truly pave the way for increased business to business engagements between our two regions.”


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