he people of Africa and the Caribbean are poised to make the global capitalist economy, which was built on the sweat and blood of African slaves, work for them, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), said.
Addressing leaders of Caribbean nations during the 44th Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Nassau, The Bahamas, Prof. Oramah lamented that “for so many decades, the global capitalist economy, built on the sweat and blood of African slaves, has remained an unbearable burden on the shoulders of Africans; we are now poised to make it work for us.
“Afreximbank is proud to be serving as a platform from which the power of this new direction is being unleashed,” he said. “It is capital, owned, controlled and deployed by us, and not by others, that has the best chance of turning the iniquities of that sad history into an asset for a fresh new beginning of shared prosperity.”
He described the first-ever Afri-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF), co-hosted by Afreximbank, the African Union Commission, the Caricom Secretariat, and the Government of Barbados in September, as a watershed in the journey towards Afro-Caribbean economic cooperation, noting that it witnessed the opening for signature of the Partnership Agreement between Afreximbank and CARICOM States.
“Since then, nine CARICOM member states have signed the Agreement, which has now come into force,” he said. Through that Agreement, which is similar to the Agreement for the Establishment of Afreximbank, signed by African States, Afreximbank was providing to Africa and the CARICOM “a financially-resourced platform for a credible pursuit of our collective aspirations to exploit our markets for our own good and in our own way”.
Prof. Oramah announced that, in just under six months since the Partnership Agreement was opened for signature, Afreximbank had put in motion arrangements to set up a Caribbean Regional Office to drive its interventions across the CARICOM States and the Bank’s Board of Directors had approved a limit of 1.5 billion US dollars for current signatories of the Participation Agreement, with that limit set to rise to 3 billion US dollars when the entire CARICOM countries join.
“Afreximbank Group today operates as a trade and project finance supermarket, offering something for everyone engaged in African trade and project development,” the President said, noting that the Bank had disbursed an aggregate amount of over 90 billion US dollars since inception. Prof. Oramah said that the Bank’s greatest impact had been during crisis periods These included the commodity crisis of 2015 and 2016 when it launched an emergency intervention product, the Countercyclical Trade Liquidity Facility (COTRALF) under which it disbursed about 10 billion US dollars to African central and commercial banks, enabling beneficiary countries to adapt in an orderly manner to the commodity price shocks. Also, in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it launched the Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility (PATIMFA) through which it disbursed an aggregate of about 8 billion US dollars by the end of 2021, not only averting large scale trade debt payment defaults but also enabling African economies to procure COVID-19 containment materials, including test kits, PPEs, and therapeutics.
“When the COVID-19 vaccines arrived, the Bank supported the pooled procurement of vaccines by the African Union and CARICOM countries, putting up a 2 billion US dollar Advance Procurement Commitment Guarantee and financing facility,” he continued. That marked the first time Africa, collectively, responded to an emergency so forcefully and it was the first time Africa and the Caribbean demonstrated that they could be stronger together.
Touting Afreximbank’s leading role in financing intra-African trade and supporting the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Prof. Oramah said that, in the five years to 2021, the Bank disbursed an aggregate amount of 20 billion US dollars in support of intra-African trade, with plans to double that amount to 40 billion US dollars in the five years from 2022 to 2026.
“Working with the AfCFTA Secretariat, and under the mandate of the African Union, the Bank has established the AfCFTA Adjustment Fund, with the goal, among others, of supporting AfCFTA State Parties to adjust in an orderly manner to the AfCFTA-induced tariff removals and to support the companies to compete in the new trading regime,” he said, adding that the Afreximbank subsidiary, FEDA, was the Fund Manager of that Fund which targets a size of 8-10 billion US dollars of which Afreximbank has committed an amount of 1 billion US dollars to catalyse activities.
He further informed the Caribbean leaders that the Third Intra-African Trade Fair, being implemented by Afreximbank, the African Union, the AfCFTA Secretariat and other partners, would take place in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in November and invited them and their countries to attend, saying that an Africa Diaspora Day would be hosted during that event.
The President added that within a few months from the holding of ACTIF, Afreximbank had mounted three missions, with leading African businesses, investors, and contractors, to some CARICOM member countries which had resulted in potential investments, with Afreximbank support, in the fish processing, ports and railways, manufacturing, roads and bridges, power, agriculture and other sectors.
Congratulating the Caribbean leaders on their vision to establish the Caribbean Exim Bank, Prof. Oramah announced that Afreximbank was willing to provide support to the CARICOM Secretariat for the studies to be conducted towards the setting up of the bank.
In a communique at the end of the Summit, the heads of state thanked Afreximbank for its role in assisting CARICOM member states in securing critical supplies of COVID-19 vaccines through the African Medical Supplies Platform and welcomed the offer by the Bank to finance the feasibility study on the establishment of the Caribbean Exim Bank.
They also called on CARICOM member states that had not yet to signed and/or ratified the Partnership Agreement with Afreximbank to do so at the earliest opportunity.
President Oramah’s address marked the first time an Afreximbank President would speak at a meeting of CARICOM Heads of State and Government and represented a major step in the drive to deepen Africa-Caribbean relations.