Connecting flights between Africa and the Caribbean will provide endless business opportunities
Four months after Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, made a clarion call at the inaugural Africa-CARICOM Summit for direct flights between the African continent and the Caribbean, the subject is back in the spotlight following another appeal by Jamaican artiste Popcaan, on January 5, 2022.
It is a matter which PM Mottley, like the recording artist who has invested substantially in Ghana, wants to be pursued with alacrity, a point she made clear during the Summit which was held virtually in September last year, under the theme Unity Across Continents and Oceans: Opportunities for Deepening Integration.
The virtual summit, which was initially put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was hosted by Kenya and chaired by the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta. It saw leaders from Angola, Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and Zimbabwe making addresses.
Prime Minister Mottley had put forward several proposals to strengthen relations between Africa and CARICOM, among them, the establishment of a regular weekly direct flight.
“The establishment of a regular weekly direct airline flight between Africa and CARICOM, even if it means that we may have to initially help subsidise it, because, without the vision that is necessary, without the mental emancipation, the unlocking of that 1.4 billion people will not happen,” she said.
“The only thing that stops us from having a direct air link between Africa and the Caribbean is the will of those of us who continue not to recognise the importance of unlocking 1.4 billion people who have a common ancestry to be able to work with each other,” she added.
Along with PM Mottley, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness had also cherished the long-held desire to establish non-stop or direct air links between Africa and the Caribbean, noting that, among other things, it was “integral to rearranging a colonial era and still existing order that forces Caribbean travellers to transit Europe or the US or Canada reach Africa”.
Presently, in order to reach the Motherland, Caribbean nationals are forced to travel northwest or northeast to North America or Europe and then back down south to Africa, even though direct/non-stop flights could be completed in a mere six hours from Guyana, Barbados and most countries in the Caribbean’s south-east.
Attempts at cementing direct flights between the Caribbean region and Africa have borne fruit over the last two years though, despite the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2019, the Governments of Guyana and Ghana signed an Air Services Agreement, which in effect, paved the way for direct flights between Africa and the rest of the Caribbean.
The Agreement formed part of a broader movement to make travelling between the Caribbean and African States more accessible and was signed by Minister of Aviation of Ghana, Joseph Kofi Adda and Guyana’s corresponding Minister Annette Ferguson.
A year later, in December 2020, Nigerian Airline, Air Peace, made its historic direct flight from Lagos to Jamaica via the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St. James. Arranged by tour company Nigerians Travel Too, in partnership with Air Peace, the pioneering chartered flight was initiated as a means of reconnecting with descendants and strengthening bilateral relations. The first non-stop flight to the island from Nigeria was also aimed at exploring the possibility of a direct round-trip commercial airlift between the two destinations.
A total of 132 passengers were on the 12-hour flight, including Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, his wife Sulola Onyeama, and 19 crew members. The Nigerians spent a week in Jamaica before returning home.
The mastermind behind the pioneering initiative, Elizabeth Agboola, the British-Nigerian founder of Nigerians Travel Too, had explained to the media that it was always a lifelong dream of hers to assist in the efforts of the Nigerian-Caribbean connection.
In fact, Agboola had hoped to take the dual connection and cultural celebration into 2021 and expand the reach from solely flying to Jamaica to visiting other Caribbean countries, with another tour, dubbed Easter In the Caribbean in April last year.
However, COVID-19 and its variants stymied the plans for the two-way flight, which would have seen Jamaicans travelling to Nigeria to embark on what was to have been “an exciting tour of Africa”, as well as to seek out business opportunities whether in Nigeria or elsewhere on the continent as the country is a central location to other places of interest within the Motherland.
Therefore, to further cement African-Caribbean relations, as well as expand direct flights and business opportunities, the maiden AfroCaribbean Expo 2022 is being organised by a team of African and Caribbean experts from September 28 to October 1, 2022.
The week-long AfroCaribbean Expo 2022 seeks to feature a host of activities including a two-day Summit, an Afro-Caribbean Concert and finally a tour of Ghana’s most historic and attractive sites.
For further information, kindly reach out via the website https://afrocaribbeanexchange.com and register as a sponsor, partner, exhibitor, speaker or participant.