By our special correspondent
The Caribbean Export Development Agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nigeria in a bid to boost trade and investment between the two sister countries. Speaking at the event recently which was themed, ‘Advancing Trade & Investment between the Caribbean and West Africa, Deodat Maharaj, executive director at Caribbean Export Development Agency, said the strong, cultural and historical ties between Africa and the Caribbean region has yet to translate into business opportunities.
“We want to create opportunities for Nigerian businesses in the Caribbean region and businesses in Nigeria as well. In the region, around 75 percent of all businesses are Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) accounting for around 65 to 70 percent of the total jobs which is the same in Nigeria,” he said. He said it is natural to sign the MoU with partners who they can engage with because what they want to do is to connect with business organisations to create a platform for businesses to engage with them thereby creating more businesses.
“Nigeria exports about $45 million to the region while the region exports one million dollars to Nigeria. This is nothing for an economy this size. So with this agreement, we hope to multiply our exports by $10 million within the next 18 months,” he added.
In recent years, Caribbean- Africa relationships have been building momentum. In 2021 the inaugural Caribbean Community (CARICOM)- Africa Summit was held and in 2022, the board of directors of the African Export-Import Bank approved $1.5 billion in funding to enable member states of CARICOM to tap into the Bank’s financial instruments to assist identified economic sectors and work to strengthen local financial institutions to source finance for MSMEs.
Caribbean- African relations are ripe with potential and promise but require a greater effort to significantly transform the relationship into a force built on political, social, and economic principles fit for purpose and suitable for modern times, Ginger Moxey, Minister for Grand Bahama, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, said.
“I believe that there are tremendous opportunities for trade between The Bahamas, a country in the Caribbean and Nigeria,” she said. According to Moxey, the country’s strategic geographical location and developed infrastructure have fueled economic activity in the transhipment sector for decades. “The Bahamas stands as the gateway to the Caribbean, and moreover, it is at the crossroads of two-way trade.”
Femi Egbesola, president of Association of Small Business Owners in Nigeria added that the agreement is a wonderful development as it creates a platform where Nigeria and the Caribbean countries can effectively engage in businesses. “It will open a lot of doors and opportunities. This is something that we have been looking forward to in Nigeria, particularly in our sector. Many entrepreneurs don’t really know about the Caribbean and their trade,” he said.