Prime Minister Davis secures $30 Million for Bahamas Development Bank…
ACCRA, Ghana – During his Official Remarks at the the Afreximbank 30th Anniversary & Annual Meeting (AAM2023), held on June 19, 2023, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis offered his “heartfelt thanks” to the Government and People of Ghana, and the Afreximbank, for the “extremely warm welcome and generous hospitality” they bestowed on him and his delegation.
“We are grateful for the embrace and look forward to many long years of close collaboration and friendship,” he said at the event, held at the Accra International Conference Centre, Ghana. “I am pleased to have been invited to participate in this 30th Annual Meeting and 30th Anniversary celebration of the Afrexim Bank.”
“I am here as Prime Minister of The Bahamas, but I am also the outgoing Chair of CARICOM, the association of the countries of the Caribbean Community,” he added. “I bring greetings from the entire region and wish to recognize my fellow Caribbean leaders also attending this meeting: The Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Motley and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and The Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves.”
Prime Minister Davis said that he was “elated” that that meeting was taking place in Ghana, as that was the country with which many Bahamians held direct ancestral ties.
He said: “Those ties are on full display every Christmas and New Year during our annual Junkanoo Parade, where the origins of the music, costumes and dances have been traced back to the area called Princess Town, right here in Ghana. So now you appreciate my excitement, as I really greet you as my brothers and my sisters.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that the Afrexim Bank’s growing presence in the Caribbean, underpinned by a physical presence, an ambitious Memorandum of Understanding – which, he said, included a substantial commitment for investment of around 1.5 billion dollars with the possibility of increasing to 3 billion dollars – was a testament to the shared goal of a joint vision of pan-African prosperity.
“I wish to thank and congratulate my friend, the President and Chairman of Afrexim Bank Professor Benedict Oramah for his vision, steady leadership and his persistence on the inclusion of the Caribbean region as part of the bank’s vision,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis stated that, unsurprisingly, given the common and intertwined history and legacy, the countries of Africa and The Caribbean faced similar challenges and those challenges presented “significant opportunities” for partnership.
“However, in many instances, as we heard yesterday from the speakers and panelists, be it food security, financial security or trade, we are not maximising the hand we have been dealt by geography, by nature and by history,” he said.
“We are not maximising our key assets; the ingenuity and creativity of our people, our abundant natural resources, our beautiful environment and our unique cultures,” Prime Minister Davis added. “These opportunities, however, are stymied by some common headwinds, some of which lie outside of our control.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, since coming to office 20 months ago, he had been on a crusade to highlight the risks of climate change on countries such as The Bahamas. For his country, he added, those risks were “existential”.
“The Bahamas is one of the top ten countries in the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the rising sea levels and steady coastal erosion,” he said. “The increased risk in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, threatens everyone and everything around our archipelago of small islands. “
“In 2019, for example, Hurricane Dorian cost us 3.4 billion dollars in damage, the equivalent of one third of our GDP,” Prime Minister Davis added. “In the last 10 to 12 years, we estimate that more than 30% of our national debt is directly associated to climate change. We in the Caribbean region are on the front line.
“Likewise, African countries also face the new realities associated with climate change.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that, another commonly shared challenge was that of the current global financial model.
“Quite frankly it’s not working for developing countries, Small Island Developing States and those of us on the front line of Climate Change,” he said. “This is why the success of the Afrexim Bank is critical to our advancement as a region and as a people.
“The good news is, like you, we are a resilient and creative people.”
Prime Minister Davis added that, in The Bahamas, the nation’s global brand in the tourism sector had been “the engine that drives our economy”.
“While it is still ‘Better in The Bahamas’, over time we have become aware of how much of the tourism value chain lies in the hands of foreign investors,” he said.
He added: “We must involve more local entrepreneurs in the value chain, and keep more of every dollar spent in The Bahamas in The Bahamas. This requires us to properly capitalize our Development Bank to provide deserving loans to our citizens, so they can play a more meaningful role in our economy. We are pleased to be working with Afrexim Bank to do just that.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that he knew that African countries were exploring opportunities in tourism. The continent, he added, was “truly blessed with an abundance of natural beauty like no other place on earth”.
“The world needs to see it,” he said. “The potential for partnership is obvious. We have been in the tourism business for more than 100 years.”
“We also recognise the successes that some of our African brothers and sisters are already realising in tourism, Prime Minister Davis added. “For example, we can learn from the ‘Inclusive Tourism Model’ in Tanzania, and from Rwanda’s strategy of targeting high-end tourism, and maximising the in-country spend.”
Prime Minister Davis said that he should also mention Ghana’s “innovative” approach in launching the ‘Year of Return’ in 2019, which continued to inspire The Bahamas’ own efforts.
“My brothers and sisters, these are the kinds of development priorities and activities which lie within our control, which are ripe for partnership, and where we can make rapid progress built on common needs, challenges, and experience,” he said.
“We don’t have to wait.”
Apart from tourism, Prime Minister Davis pointed out the “pioneering work” done, and underway, in The Bahamas, in respect of the regulation of digital assets, which he said was recognized as the leading legal and regulatory framework in the world.
“We were the first country, for example, to launch a digital currency, the Sand Dollar, which embraces the unbanked in our rural areas and includes them in our economy,” he said.
“We have also created a legal and regulatory framework for carbon credit trading which is also now globally recognized,” Prime Minister Davis added. “Financial Services is the second pillar of our economy and contributes significantly to our GDP; and again, I say, we don’t need to wait to collaborate in these sectors.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, apart from the opportunities that derived from things within their control, many of them face challenges in respect of the things they needed to do, for which they were constrained by lack of finance or lack of affordable finance.
“Again, our friends at Afrexim Bank are clear champions here, as they have not only recognised the many opportunities, but stepped forward to fill the gap,” he said. “For this, we thank them.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that, as they all moved forward with essential programmes dealing with food security, financial security, and trade, he noted a “growing divergence” in access to technologies where, we seem to be on “the cusp of something even more transformative than what has come before”.
“Many of us are still on the early road to digitisation while the rest of the world is moving at a much quicker pace than we can,” he said. “We must continue to channel our resources both human and financial in this area if we are to contain the widening digital divide.”
He added: “I am pleased however, that we are taking measured and calculated steps to move beyond that stage in history, when those of us in the developing world had no more agency than to put our hand out for help. It retarded our national development.
“So now, when confronted with challenges, we have seen and are seeing the benefits of what collective action and control can do.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the world was at an inflection point, which provided a window for Africa to regain its position of prominence and pride, which had been denied for centuries through colonialism and imperialism.
“We should not squander this opportunity and I believe now is the time for us to tie our shared challenges to a unifying charge to take advantage of the opportunities created at this inflection point,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis noted that, rather than just despairing at the shortcomings in the global financial system, they have The Bridgetown Initiative, led by Barbados, pressing for improvements and an overhaul of the global architecture; so that it delivered better for those nations’ people.
“We have created and strengthened regional institutions built by us, and for us,” he said. “We have to ensure that we continue to give our institutions our fullest support, so that they do not languish at the wayside, in a field of forgotten dreams.”
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that CARICOM was a good example of the kind of progress that can be made “when we work together”.
He noted: “Just last week in Kingston, Jamaica, CARICOM convened a meeting, the first of its kind, with all the key opposing stakeholders in Haiti, to try to support them in restoring law and order, and to re-establish a framework to hold elections. The suffering currently experienced by the Haitian people is immense, and a multinational effort is badly needed to bring relief, but Haitian people must be the driving force to resolve their challenges and instability they are experiencing. Open internal dialogue with the support of its regional and world partners is the only solution.”
Prime Minister Davis added that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was another “shining example”.
“At a time when the WTO is grappling with some serious issues in the Appellate Body, it is heartening to see the continent progressing where the global system has stalled,” he said.
“The WTO should be looking to learn lessons from the AfCFTA.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, while seemingly intractable and insoluble conflicts continue in various parts of the world, many overlooked the fact that Africa was home to some of the most peaceful countries on the planet; and in terms of religious tolerance and interfaith harmony, Sierra Leone was an international exemplar.
“My brothers and sisters, my point is, the rest of the world has much to learn from Africa, and Africa has much to teach the rest of the world,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis reiterated that there was much more that they can do to maximise “the hand which we all have been dealt”.
“With so much in common by way of challenges and opportunities through real partnership with The Bahamas and the Caribbean as a whole, there is much cause for optimism,” he said.
“Everything we are discussing over these few days, every effort that we are making to improve the lives of the peoples of Africa and the Caribbean, everything ultimately depends on the people themselves who we represent and our political resolve as leaders to create an environment where they can strive and compete,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that they were the ones who were the “actual producers and consumers, the creators and participants, the sellers and the buyers”.
“And it is the success of that human connection and our interconnectivity as a people, determined not to let a line drawn on a piece of paper divide us, or oceans separate us, that will bring our countries and our people the success we all desire,” he said.