“Journey to Africa”

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My first visit to Africa was an eye-opener. I sometimes describe this trip as sensory overload. No amount of news-reading, documentary-watching or researching can prepare you for the vastness and diversity of this land, and the selflessness of its people.

Africa is a continent of 55 nations, each with its unique attributes.

Ethiopia, with just over 100 million people, is its second most populous, after Nigeria. We Barbadians like to say that there are Bajans everywhere and in every country. Well, believe me, there are Ethiopians everywhere, and wherever they go, Ethiopians make their presence known.

The Ethiopian people are exceptionally hospitable to all who visit. Africa is seen as the cradle of humankind.

The capital city, Addis Ababa, is a sprawling complex and bustling metropolis with over four million inhabitants, making it Africa’s fourth largest city. It is a booming business centre and a hub for travel.  Addis, for short, is a city shaped by diplomacy and often referred to as “the political capital of Africa” for its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent.

The African Union is headquartered here. By definition, its purpose is to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity amongst African states; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states and to promote international cooperation.

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Aaron Deane standing outside the Nelson Mandela Conference Hall at the African Union. The Nelson Mandela Conference Hall is famous for welcoming  yearly plenary sessions of the African Union summit bringing together all African heads of state. (GP)

Luckily for me, I was offered a tour of the impressive African Union buildings including the Nelson Mandela Theatre as an international symposium was taking place. This majestic complex was a gift to Africa from China and is a proud symbol of the continent’s potential when unity and cooperation are prioritised. There is so much that we, CARICOM, can learn from this body, and in turn, much that our member states and associate members can impart on the motherland.

A few months ago, the Government of Barbados made the announcement that it would lift visa restrictions for Ethiopians, and eight other African nations. It is time that we forge closer ties with African nations and work more intently to attract investors, business and tourists. In addition, the Government of Barbados revealed that it will open its first embassy in Africa later this year. Ghana’s capital, Accra, was selected as the site for this diplomatic mission. Back in June, the President of Ghana visited Barbados, and in July, Kenya’s President visited the island. Expanding cooperation on many fronts was the focus of several days of meetings. The proud story of Barbados’ history, development and vision deserve to be well known in Africa.

Aaron Deane recently visited Ethiopia and shares his views and observations with Easy readers.

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