Viewpoint: Mia Amor Mottley

The current generation of Ghanaians and Barbadians possesses a solid historical foundation on which to develop our future relationship. We must build bridges and a comprehensive, holistic partnership that permits us to come together as members of an extended family to reconnect in the deep spiritual and cultural ways that bind us together. To build what should be known as our Atlantic bridge, we must never make the mistake of only thinking of the relationship as a matter of trade and business – however important that is. We must also focus on engaging with each other in every conceivable area of human activity. It is by doing so that we will develop a substantial, interactive and interconnected social experience in which business and trade will better flourish. It is necessary to build trust, which is the essence of best business practices.

Barbados and Ghana established formal diplomatic relations only in 1994, and our interactions over the last 25 years have always been friendly but never close. We now have to determine whether we want to be close. It is up to us to build this Atlantic bridge based on our common heritage. In recent months Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo and I have met at least on three occasions, and during my visit to Ghana we signed two agreements: one establishing cooperation for the delivery of assistance in nursing care, and a ports cooperation agreement between the Port of Tema and the Bridgetown Port.

Ghanaians coming into Barbados now do not need visas, and Barbadians visiting Ghana similarly do not need visas. Having removed the paper restrictions, we must now develop the physical transport infrastructure, and our two governments must commit, as we do with other industries, to nurturing the environment within which our businesspeople will be able to benefit from shorter travel times.

Cooperation between Barbados and Ghana will also be crucial on issues such as renewable energy and climate change. The experiences of the virulent hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, and Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 serve to remind us of an existential threat, not just to coral islands but to the entire globe as a whole. We have to act with one voice and as a unified civilisation. It is not beyond the ingenuity of mankind to address the climate crisis. We are therefore committed to a complete transformation of our renewable energy and transportation sectors. These changes will present unique opportunities for investment, which we believe must not only come from the North Atlantic but also from the East as well.

Ghana is ready to house the secretariat for the African Continental Free Trade Area, and Barbados is responsible for the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy. As such, both countries represent the possibilities inherent in opening up markets and access to other regions.

I would like to use this opportunity to bring into sharp focus the urgency for the peoples and countries of Africa to claim our space, not just economically but as defenders of multilateralism and an equitable, just international order. Neither of our regions – big or small – can survive without a fair and level playing field that respects the sovereignty of our nations and the diversity of our cultures.

This is but the first step in a renewed journey together. This time it will be dreamed, planned and executed lovingly by the people who come to the task willingly, without a hint of force, oppression, blackmail or corrupt practices. We remain committed to the spirit of democracy, freedom and justice, and as such we salute Ghana for being the first country in the name of Kwame Nkrumah to claim independence as a black African nation from the destructive colonial experiment.

This viewpoint was adapted from a speech given to the Ghanaian Parliament on November 15, 2019.