Closer than brothers

Jamaica and Ghana to conclude visa-waiver agreement

Monday, June 17, 2019

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President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo concluded a hectic visit to Jamaica yesterday with remarks at the opening of the 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

During his two-day official working visit, the Ghanaian president hailed late former Prime Minister Edward Seaga as an illustrious leader who, “will forever have a secure place in the pantheon of outstanding Caribbean and Jamaican statesmen”.

The president, who signed the condolence book for Seaga at Jamaica House on Saturday, wrote that the “Jamaican people have lost a great defender and (a) tireless worker”.

He said Seaga “was deservedly famous and distinguished in his career of public service,” and that his contribution to the development of Jamaica as a nation, is “rooted in respect for the rule of law, human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability”.

The signing of the book was among the schedule of activities for Akufo-Addo, who also had bilateral talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Following the talks Holness announced that a visa-waiver agreement is to be implemented between Jamaica and Ghana.

According to Holness, the foreign affairs ministers of both countries have been mandated to negotiate and conclude the agreement.

“We can use this initiative to forge increased interpersonal connections and at the same time deepen the trade and commercial relations between our respective countries,” said Holness.

He added that the Ghanaian president's visit reflects the continued strong bilateral relationship that exists between Jamaica and the Republic of Ghana, and reaffirmed Jamaica's commitment to strengthening and deepening the relations between both countries.

“Our relations are deeply rooted in our ancestral and historical connections, forged over many years and only made stronger by our firm democratic traditions, shared principles and vision for peace and prosperity, and the cultural affinities which unite our peoples,” declared Holness.

He noted that he and the Ghanaian president engaged in fruitful discussions to strengthen the partnership between both countries, to secure increased development opportunities.

The prime minister said the discussions also focused on important bilateral matters and, in particular, measures to improve trade and investment and the movement of people, goods, and services between the countries.

“We also discussed the excellent opportunities for cooperation in other areas such as energy and mining; sport and culture; as well as tourism, education and training,” he said.

In his remarks, Akufo-Addo stressed that it is now time to “give teeth” to the long-standing relations between Jamaica and Ghana “by making sure that the various areas of engagement in education, tourism, cultural activities are specifically tied down”.

“We cannot have visas standing in the way of those relations, so the decision has been taken by my government… to provide visa-free arrangements for Jamaicans in Ghana, and facilitate and make it easier for you to accept our invitation to come and join us for the 'Year of Return',” stated, Akufo-Addo's, whose visit formed part of a Caribbean tour to promote 'The Year of Return, Ghana 2019'.

This is a major landmark marketing campaign targeting the African American and Diaspora market to mark 400 years of the first enslaved African arriving in Jamestown, Virginia.

“This is what the Year of Return means, and for it we have prepared a series of activities and programmes that will be taking place for the rest of the year in Ghana,” he stated.

He noted that the intention is to use the symbolism of The Year of Return, Ghana 2019 to take concrete steps to solidify the relationship between not only Jamaica, but other countries in the region.

“The relationship that we are forming here in Jamaica will form part of this process of solidifying the relations between those of us on the continent of Africa and those of you in the Diaspora outside Africa,” said Akufo-Addo.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange, who led the Ghanaian president on his tour of Seville Great House and Heritage Park in St Ann on Saturday (June 15), announced that Jamaica will be represented at the various activities scheduled for the 'Year of Return, Ghana 2019'.

“Mr President, we welcome you as a member of our family, separated from us through the many years of the transatlantic trade of Africans. We are happy that you also see us as a family. We commend you for extending the hand of welcome to all of us, particularly in this the 'Year of Return',” said Grange.

“We planned that some of us Jamaicans will be there at Panafest in August and the other events that are planned. We now meet each other in better times, celebrating our common heritage. Today we are honoured by your visit,” added Grange.

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