Mon | Jan 27, 2020

Africa, arise! - PM woos investors to tap Jamaica’s economic opportunities

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:21 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith engage the Jamaican Diaspora in Kenya.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith engage the Jamaican Diaspora in Kenya.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday sought to woo Kenyan investors, telling them to come to invest in infrastructure and energy in a bid to deepen the island’s relationship with the African continent.

Holness, who is on official duties in Kenya, said that he has sought to engage African countries since he took office in 2016.

The prime minister also mentioned that Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, visited Jamaica recently and has had a first-hand look at what the economy has to offer.

“The important thing about developing the business relationship is also about having a people-to-people understanding. And for far too long, we have spoken in glowing terms about our relationship, but we haven’t really utilised the value of that relationship to layer on top of that the business opportunities,” said Holness in his opening remarks during the 9th African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Summit Presidential Dialogue in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Holness urged Africa and the Caribbean to go beyond the cultural and sporting ties already established and to explore new frontiers in business.

The prime minister cautioned nations against considering Jamaica’s relative small size and market to be an inhibiting factor in developing stronger economic bonds.

In rolling out the welcome mat, Holness cited Jamaica’s world-beating stock market as a big drawing card for foreign investment.

“There is a great opportunity for investors here in Kenya and in the wider African continent to look to Jamaica for investment opportunities, and we welcome you. Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, we have stable democracies, we have very stable economic policies, particularly fiscal policies, so this is a good environment for investors to place resources,” said Holness, talking up the favourable macroeconomic shift that has flowed from an International Monetary Fund regime that has driven down the debt-to-GDP ratio.

A wave of investment

Citing China as a major benefactor, Holness highlighted that Jamaica had tapped a wave of investment in infrastructure and energy, two pillars considered crucial to economic development.

“We have not yet had any African country taking a specific interest in a very profitable infrastructure investment in Jamaica,” he said.

“I am using this opportunity to invite African investors to come and participate in the development of our country,” Holness added, to thunderous applause.

The prime minister warned African leaders who were in attendance that governments should embrace the private sector and take a more activist role in the modern era as a driver of economic growth and social empowerment.

“Lurking in the background of this newly discovered spirit and enthusiasm about industry and commerce and growth is still a large percentage of our population living in absolute poverty. So in the conversation about the economy and the incorporation and the new partnership with the private sector, there must be within that partnership an understanding that we have to do more in dealing with poverty in our countries,” Holness said.

The prime minister added that if governments understood their role as facilitators of business, while curbing corruption, ACP nations could be leaders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.