#BTEditorial – Afreximbank: from reparations to reconciliation

In an historic move that promises to reshape economic ties between the Caribbean and Africa, the Africa Export-Import Bank’s (Afreximbank) decision to establish its headquarters in the Caribbean stands as a beacon of hope for boosting South-South cooperation and invigorating cross-border investment. This is a landmark development in relations between the two regions, offering unprecedented opportunities for economic growth, development, and mutual prosperity.

That this launch should occur right in the middle of the ongoing talks and a progressing movement on reparations for the brutal enslavement of millions of African people in the Caribbean is no historical accident: two regions, separated by a Middle Passage and oceans of mistrust, doubt, stereotype and racism, are responding to the past with a grown-up approach to the future; a true partnership to undergird deep emotional ties that a holocaust could not break.

CARICOM is right to seek reparations from its former colonial powers. The regional bloc is not seeking a handout but a hand-up. At the same time, the establishment here of a highly respected, stable, multilateral financial institution of African origins carries profound significance for the deep ties born out of the painful legacy of slavery. It could also be a potent antidote to the poison of neocolonialism that still courses through the veins of nations on both sides of the vast Atlantic.

The transatlantic slave trade casts a long and dark shadow over both the Caribbean and African nations, not only shaping their identities but impairing their socio-economic development. The struggle for reparations seeks acknowledgement, justice and redress for the atrocities inflicted upon the ancestors of the Caribbean people during one of humanity’s darkest chapters.

Afreximbank’s decision to set up here signifies a powerful step on the path of reconciliation with our African brothers and sisters. If we are to repair the damage and harm done by slavery, we must not only seek justice from the exploiting nations of the north; we must also rebuild a solid structure of mutual respect, collaboration and cooperation with the homeland that our Caribbean ancestors left behind.

The call for reparations from CARICOM has been met with a mix of support and scepticism on the global stage. Afreximbank’s involvement is not an atonement for sin – for critics too often engage in ‘whataboutism’ in putting any Africans’ complicity in slave trading on equal terms with European colonial domination in a deeply flawed misreading of history.

By establishing its presence in the Caribbean, the bank represents the other side of the reparations coin: reconciliation.

And now to that grown-up future.

Afreximbank’s presence holds immense potential for reshaping our economies. The bank has an enviable track record as a catalyst for cross-border investment and economic cooperation. By leveraging its expertise in trade finance and credit insurance, Afreximbank can facilitate access to much-needed funding for vital development projects, thus accelerating job creation and economic growth.

Caribbean economies, whose vulnerability to external shocks has contributed to decades of decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, should find reassurance in Afreximbank’s risk mitigation tools. The bank’s trade credit insurance can provide confidence to investors, encouraging them to invest in the region despite global economic uncertainties. Alongside CARICOM’s efforts to foster a conducive investment climate, Afreximbank’s involvement can enhance the region’s resilience and attractiveness for foreign investors.

CARICOM nations must continue to diversify their economies. Afreximbank’s support can play a pivotal role in driving sustainable growth. Its support for export-oriented industries can accelerate sectors like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and eco-tourism, which are integral to the region’s long-term development goals. By focusing on sustainable industries, the partnership between Afreximbank and the Caribbean can foster an inclusive and environmentally conscious economy.

This Caribbean-African collaboration also presents a unique opportunity for knowledge exchange and capacity-building. By sharing experiences and best practices, both regions can learn from each other, harnessing collective strengths to tackle shared challenges such as climate change, food security, and economic diversification. Such cooperation embodies the spirit of South-South collaboration, fostering a sense of solidarity between the two regions.

We stand firmly behind the ongoing efforts towards reparations for the transatlantic slave trade. We expect the prime minister to heed the call this week to take that case before a court of international law, presumably the International Criminal Court. There is also another side of the reparations coin: the formerly enslaved empire strikes back with a mature, meaningful and mutually profitable relationship with a continent that also suffered greatly: the theft of millions of human beings that has so stunted its growth and development that it is haunted by both spectre and stereotype.

We support Afreximbank as a turning point in Caribbean-African relations, exemplifying the power of collaboration in reconciliation and building a more prosperous, united future. We encourage regional governments and businesses to embrace this opportunity and collaborate with Afreximbank to create a vibrant and sustainable economic ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders. Together, the Caribbean and Africa can forge a new path of prosperity, changing perceptions, and setting an example of successful South-South cooperation for the rest of the world.

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