Columns

Africa's market is Jamaica's birthright

...and the African Union can make it happen

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, June 14, 2019

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Africa owes us big time! It sold us to the white man and should give us access to its markets as a right. The white man invested his loot, does well; what of Africa? Why did you trade my great, great, great grandpa to strangers for shiny beads? Your forefathers traded millions of your kin to Berbers via the Sahara and Indo-Arabs via the Indian Ocean. Do you care?

As West Indians (with majority black, black-ruled islands) we love Africa and write most on Africa, but you do not write your history so we know truth. Today, we ask no money, just most favoured nation status so we work to grow our islands.

The African Union (AU) apes the European Union, which wants to be the United States of Europe. To us, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), mooted in 2012, signed on May 30 to launch on July 7, with 52 of 55 nations, 1.2-billion Africans with combined gross domestic product (GDP) of some US$2.5 trillion is crucial.

Note, Nigeria did not sign as it protects its own economy. (Face 2 Face Africa, May 30, Ismail Akwei report)

Sirs, we ask the AU to designate Caricom its 56th state for trade not a single economy! You have billionaires, hundreds of millionaires by selling natural resources to foreigners — just as your ancestors sold us, made profits, and some of you are still slavers. Repent!

West Indians were key to pan-Africa; Sylvester Williams, Trinidad; Ras Makonnen, Guyana; Padmore, Marcus Garvey, Michael Manley; “burning spear” Dudley Thompson defended Mau Mau leaders from British rendition; Nkrumah, Kenyatta were inspired and Malcolm X, Michael X, Stokeley, Wally Rodney moved the process along.

We disrespect Marcus Garvey to focus solely on philosophy as his business acumen was phenomenal. To engineer the first share offer floated on five continents and plan factories to make consumer goods for Africa was massive! You-all give China a lot, so give us our due so we fulfil Garvey's promise for Africa. Little has changed for your masses since the 19th century; rich and middle class have many servants, but no anti-slavery body and the 100 black lives lost in one oil pipeline fire as they stole fuel a nuh nutten?

China gets land and we are entitled to our ancestors plot. Emperor Haile Selassie gave Rastafari land at Shashamane, but West Africa, the epicentre of Atlantic slave sales gave us no land — shame! Ethiopia was the only black nation in the 1940s League of Nations and Selassie defended slavery, a century after Emancipation as his nation's 4,000-year-old culture yet Rasta love him but not white slavers of a mere 500 years-hypocrites, racists? Will the AU give right of return to its diaspora as Israel?

The Fourth Industrial Age we speak of is white, not of Africa, and marginally of us. Our First Industrial Age was a cutting-edge sugar industry, but blacks were just labour. Our Second Age might have been bauxite, but we dig-and-ship dirt, so it led to no innovation, no integration; no new housing materials; no auto parts, not one aluminium pot made here — shame! Can we prove to grandkids we had bauxite? The howls about Cockpit Country are loud, so why not dis-invite bauxite firms? Vote them out or shut up! Our Third Industrial Age could be telecoms, but we consume, make Irish, English billionaires; do we innovate? No!

We are de-industrialised, low productivity, but Africa owes us and needs us. It's middle class is of the west, which we master; 700-million poor blacks need cheap goods and we do cheap well — soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, sanitary pads, processed foods, etc; and Lasco, Grace, Musson, Seprod can deliver on Garvey's vision.

That said, we should embrace the Japan model. With no natural resources they installed manufacturing capacity multiples of their market; streamlined supply chains, imported inputs, trained low-paid workers and made cheap goods for the world. Later, they cloned high-value goods, innovated, and their people are now the best paid globally. Yes, we can!

So, what must Cabinet do?

* Ask the AU for market access as its 56th state in lieu of reparations.

* Incentivise select producers to install capacity multiples of the local demand for export.

* Along with Caricom, lobby the AU for one million hectares of our ancestral land. Our big agri-processors need to upscale on tractor-able lands to serve Africa, Europe and America.

* Enable Jampro, The Port Authority, and Kingston Wharves to lead market and freight logistics studies so we send goods and people directly across the Atlantic to Lagos (1.5 million TEUs) or small ports as Abijan or Tema

* Promote investment in logistics, air and sea ports, long range aircraft, ships here and in Africa.

* Finally, appoint The University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor Hilary Beckles a roving ambassador for trade, IP, services to link us to research, inventors, and multi-billion native African firms as Dangote Group. Ours make super profits on three million people, so a market of 10 per cent of 220 million in Nigeria, 35 million Ghana would be heaven. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.


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