07 September 2021 – 17:20
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged leaders in Africa to strengthen ties with Caribbean nations. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged African and Caribbean heads of state to use their shared heritage to deepen relations.
“Our common heritage should encourage us to deepen our engagement, strengthen trade and investment, collaborate in research and development, and share expertise and knowledge among our countries. Just as we share a common history, we also have common challenges,” said Ramaphosa.
The president was speaking at a virtual inaugural Africa-Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit on Tuesday afternoon.
Among other things, Tuesday’s discussions focused on the promotion of trade, investment and economic integration, transport integration and mitigation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa said the historic first Africa Caricom initiative places participating states “on the threshold of a new epoch of integration, unity and cooperation”.
The summit, he said, was also in a sense fulfilling an important aspiration of the pioneers of pan-Africanism, and, within a contemporary context, of the African Unions’s (AU) Agenda 2063.
Ramaphosa, who is also the AU champion on Covid-19, said no country was spared from the devastating human, social, political and economic effects of the pandemic.
“We are all working to overcome the effects of colonialism and underdevelopment by building inclusive economies and creating more opportunities for our people. We are all vulnerable to the effects of climate change through rising sea levels, adverse weather effects and social and economic disruption.”
Ramaphosa said the pandemic has demonstrated the value and necessity of confronting challenges together.
“From the onset of the pandemic, we developed a united African continental response strategy, established a special Covid-19 Response Fund, and launched the groundbreaking African Medical Supplies Platform to enable countries to access vital medical supplies.
“We share a determination that when it comes to vaccines and other critical health interventions, no region, no country and no person should be left behind. It is therefore a matter of great significance that Caribbean countries have joined the efforts galvanised by the AU on acquiring vaccines,” said Ramaphosa.
Just as African countries had worked together to access vaccine, Ramaphosa said, “we need to share experiences, expertise and technology to better respond to Covid-19 and future pandemics.
“We must mobilise the global community behind the call for a temporary waiver of the Trips [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property] agreement at the World Trade Organisation and must continue to lobby for partnerships on licensing and technology transfer with those countries that have the capacity to produce their own vaccines.
“Gone must be the time when Africa and the Caribbean will need to be sourcing medical supplies and vaccines from other lands and continents that do not have the same perspective or full solidarity we have.
“The pandemic has shown what is possible when principled solidarity is put to the service of the common good. Let us draw on this solidarity as we rebuild our economies.”
Ramaphosa called on heads of state to explore the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area to advance aspirations towards economic integration and shared prosperity.
He agreed with the prime minister of Antigua & Barbuda and chairperson of Caricom Gaston Browne’s proposal to nominate September 7 as Africa Caricom Day and for the summit to take place on the day annually.
“It is important that the bonds of history continue into the future. Doing it through summits such as this one we will be able to deepen and increase our partnerships,” he said.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who was chairing the summit, commended Ramaphosa for his role as the AU champion on Covid-19.
“I want to pay a special tribute for the leadership you showed and how you led us during a difficult year during your time as chair of the AU, and your wiliness and openness in ensuring we work together with the Caribbean in our drive towards ensuring we get access to vaccines for our people,” he said.