The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced plans to establish an export-import bank in the Caribbean, as it looks to boost trade and trade finance between the two regions. 

Benedict Oramah, Afreximbank’s president and chairman of the board of directors, said at last week’s inaugural AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum in Barbados that efforts are underway to open a Caribbean office. 

He called for governments across the Caribbean Community (Caricom), an alliance of 15 member states, to sign a participation agreement enabling the multilateral financing institution to operate in the region, providing the basis for launching a local subsidiary or affiliate. 

Oramah said Afreximbank envisages a potential initial investment of US$700mn if the project can be realised. 

“We will want to leave here with actionable proposals on how to open air and sea links between the Caribbean and Africa,” he told event attendees, which included heads of state and government ministers from countries in both regions. 

“We would like to leave here with concrete plans to open banking and payment rails, to see joint ventures for industrial projects, to deepen our commercial collaboration in the creative and commercial space, to collectively protect our intellectual properties to share knowledge and invest in climate adaptation projects.” 

The forum’s stated aims include boosting trade finance and private investment in Africa and the Caribbean, including by “leveraging the power of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”, as well as by strengthening agricultural productivity, food security and value chains. 

Speaking at the event, Caricom secretary-general Carla Barnett said political cooperation between Africa and the Caribbean “has laid a foundation on which we can and must build a new trade and economic partnership that promotes mutual development and prosperity”. 

AfCFTA is expected to help create a market worth US6.7tn by 2035, while merchandise trade within the Caricom single market totalled US2.2bn in 2018, Barnett said. Efforts are also ongoing to reduce non-tariff barriers across the Caribbean, particularly in agriculture, that are projected to drive further growth. 

Yet of the US$18.6bn in exports from Caricom countries in 2018, just US$815mn was to markets in Africa – less than 5% of the total. Just 2% of goods by value are imported from Africa. 

“The task is not an easy one; Caricom and Africa’s trade and investment relationships are slowly emerging from the patterns that were embedded in our colonial arrangements which have carried over into our post-colonial economic realities,” Barnett said. 

“We must reset these systems and foster real south-south cooperation.” 

Speaking to GTR, Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire, manager for the Caribbean at International Finance Corporation (IFC), says: “IFC welcomes this initiative and looks forward to working with the Caribbean Exim Bank to increase trade flows in the region, and expand access to finance for key sectors.” 

Top Caribbean exports to Africa include ammonia, aluminium oxide, oil drilling materials and various types of food, including sauces, condiments and frozen juice concentrate. Morocco, Ghana and South Africa are the main importers, Caricom says. 

It adds that the region’s largest import sectors include liquefied natural gas, vehicles, chemicals and bitumen, with the main sourcing markets being Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.