Economic ties between Africa and the Caribbean took a strong upward turn this week as the regions’ premier financial institutions—the African Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank—came together to advance their collaboration with one another.
On Tuesday, African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina delivered the prestigious 22nd William G. Demas Memorial Lecture at the Caribbean Development Bank’s 52nd Annual Meeting in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
The long-planned visit by the African Development Bank president to deliver this lecture physically had been on hold for the last two years, with both institutions having had to work virtually on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adesina and his Caribbean Development Bank counterpart, Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, announced it was an opportune time for the two regions to deepen development and economic ties through a new strategic partnership.
The William G. Demas Memorial Lecture, delivered to a packed audience, was an ideal platform for sharing mutual experiences and tracing pathways for a much closer partnership between Africa and the Caribbean.
Adesina’s lecture—titled “Development in a Context of Global Challenges: experiences and lessons from the African Development Bank”— highlighted shared lessons from the African Bank’s experience dealing with seven global challenges: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, renewable energy and energy transition, food security and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, infrastructure, debt and resource mobilization, and inclusive growth for women.
Increased cooperation will entail the two regions—which share deep historical and cultural ties—working closely through their multilateral development banks, particularly in agriculture, to create linkages for the African Development Bank to help train and provide capacity for the younger generation in agricultural development.
“We must encourage our young people to realize that agriculture is not simply about subsistence farming,” the African Development Bank chief stressed. “It is a business, and we should be turning out more and more of what I like to call ‘agripreneurs’,” he said.
To facilitate a strategic cross-fertilization of transatlantic investments, the African Development Bank head proposed building on the existing Africa Investment Forum—a platform set up by the Bank in 2018—to establish an Africa and Caribbean Investment Forum.
Adesina met with Turks and Caicos Premier Honorable Charles Washington Misick and key members of his government. They discussed areas of mutual collaboration. He also spoke with members of the Turks and Caicos’ private sector. He urged them to put a high premium on agriculture as a business with a profitable bottom line and as a vehicle of immense benefit to the economy and quality of life of the people of Turks and Caicos.
The two multilateral development institutions further strengthened their collaboration with the signing on Tuesday of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Providenciales.
Adesina and Leon signed the MoU on behalf of their institutions. Both banks will work closely across various areas. They will collaborate on economic diversification initiatives in their respective regions, with an emphasis on deploying technological and digital transformation solutions in commerce, trade, public services, and financial intermediation and inclusion.
The MoU formalizes the platform for the two institutions to join forces to promote trade between Africa and the Caribbean. It also enables both regions to work together on the sustainable development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The heads of the two development finance institutions agreed that the MoU will play a catalytic role in making their regional economies more resilient, especially for the most vulnerable. Collaboration by the institutions is expected to promote the development of and access to innovative financing instruments that encourage the flow of funds into the two regions.
At the signing, Adesina said: “Our challenges and the solutions that we must pursue to address them are similar. Together, we are catalyzing the development of our respective regions, making a difference in the lives of our people, ensuring that impact is strong and lasting, and shaping the global narrative about our respective regions and institutions.”
Leon said: “Deepening partnerships and knowledge sharing are critical for us to realize the transformative development of our respective regions as we envision. This agreement will not only strengthen our relationship with the African continent but also fuel the innovative path we are pursuing in areas of mutual interest beneficial to all.”
The theme of the Caribbean Development Bank’s 52nd Annual Meeting—“Measure Better to Target Better”—resonates with the two regional development banks, as both institutions place a high premium on measuring efficacy to better target the needs of their regional member countries.