Trade as engine of economic growth for Africa and the Caribbean
PJ Patterson

An edited address to the 2022 Carib News business conference on November, 18, 2022.

The conference theme to "look at the impact and development market in Africa, the Caribbean and the emerging market of people of colour in the United States" fits admirably within the objectives of the Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, which seeks to promote the development of the people of Africa, the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. To achieve this, we focus on mobilising the Diaspora, Africa, and the Caribbean in the fields of trade, investment, science, sports, culture, and entertainment.

We are seeking to enhance the ongoing intergovernmental relations by engaging civil society through a people-to-people connection.

My presentation will seek to establish the framework for using trade as an engine of economic growth and sustainable development within a rules based multilateral trading system.


While Africa and the Caribbean constitute one-third of the World Trade Organization (WTO) membership we account for less than four per cent of global trade — Africa's share is below three per cent and Caribbean countries are about 0.5 per cent. We cannot be content to remain at the periphery of the system and must resolve to enter a new frontier in all six regions of Africa.

Africa is presently confronting a combination of crises both traditional and contemporary. The long legacy of colonialism still has a debilitating grip, stifling the continent's enormous development potential.

The challenges faced by African and Caribbean countries in the multilateral trading system have been exacerbated by the COVID crisis. Some estimates indicate that Africa has lost a decade of economic growth and development as a result of reduced export earnings for commodities, falling remittances and reduced official development assistance. Caribbean countries have not been spared, as most economies have been hit by the tremendous costs of the COVID response measures, an avalanche of natural disasters and the adverse consequences of the Russia-Ukraine War. The level of indebtedness has increased, putting at risk the gains that were made in the last decade.


As with all transformative campaigns, the start begins with a vision. We have had such a vision for a very long time. Marcus Garvey outlined the pooling of the finance of the African Diaspora in the Americas and the human resource expertise of the Caribbean with the natural resources and workforce of Africa to unshackle trade. Integral to the realisation was ownership of the production, shipping and distribution by Africans and the peoples descended from Africa. The critical kernel of Garveyism is that enough financial capital resides among the globally dispersed peoples of Africa. Self-finance is key to controlling our economic process.

We have, for too long, been prevented from benefiting fully from our inalienable right to economic freedom, economic self-determination, economic sovereignty and economic justice. Rights are not given; they are attained and concretised by struggle. This will have to involve Africa and those of African descent asserting a role as change agents to alter the lopsided international economic order and the archaic global governance arrangements.

Our discussion occurs with the existence of Africa's prescription to foster its own initiative for intra-continental trade with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the contemplation of an eventual movement towards a common market as mooted at the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers in Gabon, October 27-28, 2022.

This opens the door for African and Caribbean countries to strengthen their bilateral trade and economic relations through a high-quality and ambitious trade agreement covering goods, services and investment between them. The linking of Caricom and AfCFTA would provide mutual economic benefits for African and Caribbean countries and also strengthen the cultural and historical bonds between them.

A dynamic trade agreement would provide access to a huge market for Caribbean countries and also give African countries access to the expertise in certain sectors where Caribbean countries have an advantage such as tourism. It would also strengthen their negotiating positions in the WTO and other multilateral fora.

Trade encouragement

There are two imperatives to encourage the expansion of trade with Africa. First, progressively remove the barriers and inconvenience by national governments which impede. This is to be tackled by listening to the impediments which the business sector encounters in the conduct of trade.

Second, effect improvements in transport, in particular shipping, but also air travel as trade in tourism, entertainment, culture and other services requires the movement of people.

Development economics reveal that under conditions of fair and equitable trade, developing countries can accelerate their economic growth and with judicious nurturing can stimulate the more comprehensive process of economic development. This can be effectively accomplished by promoting the expansion of trade between Africa, the Caribbean and its Diaspora.

While the constraints of transport and infrastructure will not easily be alleviated, there is the untapped potential of trade by Internet. Digital connectivity can directly affect the productivity of firms, workers, and information inputs in the production, marketing and distribution process. Use of digital technologies has grown exponentially. Business services, financial services, policy consultancy and the exchange of the arts in all forms are expanding. Caribbean music is now a global genre.

There is so much more that can be gained from the blue economy in the Caribbean and coastal areas of Africa. The prerequisite is for Africa and the Caribbean to be vigorous in defence of the resources of the ocean; the protection from degradation and pollution and promoting any development increase on a sustainable basis in an era of galloping climate change. In this regard there needs to be joint study of the climate connection between Africa and Caribbean weather eg the Sargassum weed — its dangers and its convertibility to positive usage.

Instead of cataloguing once again the difficulties, let us be purposeful and forward-looking. The six regions of Africa and the Diaspora together are rich in natural resources and have tremendous human talents.

Hope is an essential state of mind, but we also need a sense of purpose. Through a new raft of fair arrangements for international economic engagement, we can lift millions out of poverty. Employing the combined human, natural, financial and technological resources is the catalyst that can bring the evident potential to fruition.

A new horizon beckons. It is time to mobilise our creative skills and collective resources in a sustained push to drive inclusive growth for our own upliftment, benefit and prosperity.

— PJ Patterson served as Jamaica's sixth Prime Minister from 1992 to 2006. He is currently statesman in residence at the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, The University of the West Indies.

PJ Patterson

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Which long-term investment option is more attractive to you at the moment?