Rowley thanks Africa for gift against 'vaccine apartheid'

Prime Minister Keith Rowley. Photo courtesy OPM Facebook page.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley. Photo courtesy OPM Facebook page.

THE Prime Minister thanked the countries of Africa for letting Caricom nations participate in the African Medical Supply Platform (AMSP) to access vaccines against covid19.

He was speaking at the first African-Caribbean Community (Caricom) Summit, held virtually from Kenya on Tuesday.

Out of an 800,000 order, Trinidad and Tobago received its first batch of 108,000 single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the AMSP on August 20.

They were initially sent to remote communities, then to prison officers and prisoners, and are now being dispensed to the general population.

Dr Rowley said, "As chairman of Caricom during the first half of this year, I can attest to the value of closer collaboration between our regions."

He said as covid19 ravaged the social and economic fabric of Caribbean nations, Caricom had prioritised the early sourcing of vaccines ahead of fresh threats, such as new variants.

"The prevailing vaccine inequity, commonly called vaccine apartheid, stymied that plan.

"I therefore wish to register my sincere gratitude to His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, co-chair of our summit, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo of Ghana, for the meaningful discussions and interventions during my tenure and the pragmatic solutions arrived at in the face of this global health crisis."

He said Caricom, including TT, began to receive these vaccines in August.

"Thank you, Africa," he said.

Rowley hoped for future collaboration between Africa and Caricom in trade and finance, while making special mention of the arts.

"There is also scope for collaboration in the creative sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

"Africa and the Caribbean have gifted the world with exceptional talent be it in music, publishing, film or fashion. Let us strengthen the links between our regions’ creative industries, a sector described by UNESCO as having the capacity to be 'drivers of cultural, economic and social outputs for sustainable development.'"

The PM also touched on emotional ties between the Caribbean and Africa.

"We must also seek out ways to mend the socio-cultural dissonance derived from the legacy of slavery. Educational programmes, the development and promotion of genealogy or heritage tracing, may prove instrumental in filling the knowledge and familial gaps." He hoped to deepen the two regions' strategic partnership in the best interests of their citizenry.

"I wish to close by quoting the great Kwame Nkrumah, 'I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me.'”

Earlier he said TT's links to Africa were seen in its many bilateral relations, observer status at the African Union, high commissions in Nigeria and South Africa and honorary consuls in Ghana and Kenya, plus Caricom's upcoming diplomatic presence in Kenya.

All this, Rowley said, continued a journey once outlined by TT's George Padmore, CLR James and Dr Eric Williams.

He said his Government's vision 2030 envisaged deeper ties with Africa,

Rowley recalled his visit to the continent for the African Energy Initiative. He welcomed the summit's talks on co-operation in trade and investment, plus better transport connectivity between Africa and the Caribbean.

"While digital functionality is an imperative with online platforms such as this one being ubiquitous, in-person exchanges will boost our trade, investment and tourism activities.

"We believe that there is scope also for immediate closer co-operation in the areas of finance and agriculture."

He noted some advances in the financial services sector, especially TT's Republic Bank's acquiring HFC Bank of Ghana in 2018.

"We trust that Africa will invest with us as we are indelibly imprinted with Africa in us."


"Rowley thanks Africa for gift against ‘vaccine apartheid’"

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