Jamaica Observer: KINGSTON – Jamaica’s effort to achieve closer ties with countries in Africa is expected to be boosted by the just-concluded State visit to the island by a delegation from the Republic of Rwanda led by President Paul Kagame.

Speaking following the signing of two bilateral memoranda of understanding aimed at formalising joint activities between the two countries on Friday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared that the ground work had been laid for a deeper engagement with Rwanda and, by extension, other countries in Africa.

“We may be geographically apart but today we have made another important step to building closer bridges,” declared Holness.

“Establishing and deepening strong fraternal connection with countries of the African continent have been a strategic area of focus for Jamaica’s diplomatic engagement under my Administration.

“The Jamaica/Rwanda relationship should therefore be seen within the greater framework of our historical connection, not only with the continent but with Rwanda since the establishment of diplomatic relations in November 1998,” added Holness.

The prime minister noted that the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on political consultations which, he said, creates a formal structure for bilateral discussions and explores the potential for future collaboration.

“As we continue to engage we now have a framework within which our substantive mechanisms can be implemented,” said Holness.

The second MoU covers tourism development and promotion and Holness underscored that this will enable the two countries to share best practices and experiences as well as facilitate cooperation in related areas of mutual benefit.

According to Holness, community and rural tourism as well as eco-tourism are among the areas expected to see significant development based on the MoU.

He said Jamaica also hopes to learn from Rwanda, which is hosting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, how to market Jamaica as an ideal place to host meetings, conferences and other high-level engagements.

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith (left) and Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, Rwanda’s minister of finance and economic planning, displaying folders with the two memoranda of understanding signed by both countries on Friday, while Prime Minister Andrew Holness (back right) and President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame look on.

Reiterating that both countries have cooperated and will continue to cooperate on issues in the international community, Holness said issues such as climate change will be high on the agenda.

He said the two countries have also explored that potential for investments in agriculture, manufacturing, and special economic zones among other areas while looking at greater corporation in areas such as culture, information, communications technology, and health.

In his response, the Rwandan president said he had a very productive meeting with Holness.

“We agreed that there is no better time for Rwanda and Jamaica to deepen our relationship,” declared Kagame as he argued that the agreement on political consultations, which was signed by the two countries, will help to facilitate that process.

Kagame used his address to a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday to call for Africa and the Caribbean to work closer together in a direct and sustained manner, particularly through organisations such as the Caribbean Community and the African Union. 

“Africa and the Caribbean should work together to advance common positions in these bodies where our interests align, as they often do. Climate change and global health are two urgent examples,” Kagame had told the sitting.

“We are not strangers to one another. In our diversity we share common traits. Our peoples are resilient, creative, and — as our common history shows — also indestructible. This mutual recognition should have practical, tangible effects,” added Kagame.

Top Feature Photo: Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) and President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame shake hands following the signing of two memoranda of understanding at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew on Friday