MINISTER of Industry, Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill said the Government is resolute in its commitment to increase trade with the African continent.
Speaking Wednesday at the Regional Headquarters of The University of the West Indies in Mona, St Andrew, during the African-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum held under the theme: 'Key Strategies for Trading/Investing in Africa — highlighting opportunities in Sierra Leone', the minister said the opening of an honorary consulate for the Republic of Sierra Leone in Jamaica, last Tuesday, will create more opportunities for both countries to deepen trade relations and increase cultural exchange.
The forum was hosted jointly by the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE), in collaboration with the PJ Patterson Institute for African-Caribbean Advocacy.
Hill, while noting that the significance of improving relations between Sierra Leone and Jamaica is not lost on the Government, said, "…We seek to forge greater economic and cultural linkages between our two countries."
In his welcome to the Sierra Leone delegation, which included Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Dr Memunatu Pratt and Ambassador of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United States Sidique Abou-Bakkar Wai, Senator Hill said their time in Jamaica will allow for exploration of opportunities to expand trade and intercultural exchanges.
He also congratulated Professor Rosalea Hamilton, founding director of the ILE, on her appointment as honorary consul of Sierra Leone in Jamaica, and said her expertise in international trade will benefit both countries.
Minister Hill pointed out that the Government of Jamaica is "resolute as ever" regarding the advancing of trade and economic relations with the African continent.
"We recognise that while we do not yet have a bilateral agreement that speaks specifically to trade between Africa and Jamaica, we believe that there are profitable opportunities for trade, investment and tourism that can be of significant value. Trade between the regions has been limited — although Jamaica has exported [alumina], bauxite and other minerals, while importing petroleum and food products from Sierra Leone," he stated
"Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been deliberately strategic in pursuing a viable economic relationship with Africa," he continued.
The senator revealed that in March 2021 a special envoy to Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Togo was appointed to deepen relations with Africa and identify opportunities to enhance trade and investment to support Jamaica's economic development.
Looking at commonalities between Jamaica and Sierra Leone, Hill highlighted that both economies are dependent on agriculture and mining, but he acknowledged that some infrastructural challenges and logistic issues in the African country may act as deterrents to local companies investing there.
Pointing to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce's thrust to increase Jamaican exports and "expand [its] foreign market", the portfolio minister said.