The latest level of this Saudi-Caribbean friendship appeared to have developed fast after a lime in the coconut was left in the glass for Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism HE Ahmed Al-Khateeb. This happened in Jamaica in May this year.
In July this year, the Bahamas entered into important agreements with Saudi Arabia. Together with Jamaica and Grenada the Bahamas was part of the Saudi Caribbean Investment Meeting in November of 2022 after a bigger, better, and united WTTC Summit in Riyadh earlier that month.
The newfound cooperation with Saudi Arabia has now expanded all over the Caribbean. It is also no longer about tourism only.
A Caribbean Version of Vision 2030
Recently it added a Caribbean version of Vision 2030, which includes support for Riyadh to host EXPO 2030.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a grouping of twenty countries: Fifteen Member States and five Associate Members. It is home to approximately sixteen million citizens, 60% of whom are under the age of 30, and from the main ethnic groups of Indigenous Peoples, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese, Portuguese, and Javanese. The Community is multi-lingual; with English as the major language complemented by French and Dutch and variations of these, as well as African and Asian expressions.
Stretching from The Bahamas in the north to Suriname and Guyana in South America, CARICOM comprises states that are considered developing countries, and except for Belize, in Central America and Guyana and Suriname in South America, all Members and Associate Members are island states.
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat (a British overseas territory), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad, and Tobago are members of CARICOM, the Caribbean Community headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana.
While these states are all relatively small, both in terms of population and size, there is also great diversity with regard to geography and population as well as the levels of economic and social development.
Historic Caribbean Meeting in Saudi Arabia
Government leaders, including heads of States from CARICOM member countries, are currently getting on planes and finding their way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They will enjoy Saudi Hospitality with a Caribbean twist, when participating in the first and many say historic CARICOM meeting in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on November 16, 2023.
The primary focus of this meeting is expected to be on new investment and trade, particularly in key sectors such as infrastructure, hospitality, energy, climate change, tourism, and environmental sustainability.
Since the Caribbean is mostly a tourism-dependent region of the world, and Saudi Arabia is seen as a global leader in this sector, travel and tourism should play a major role.
The Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia
The minister of tourism for Saudi Arabia who had opened the gates to global tourism for the Kingdom, His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb will most certainly have a big role in the upcoming discussions.
HRH Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
His Royal Highness Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the man behind Vision 2030, may have an essential role. According to Caribbean sources, he may attend some of the meetings planned with visiting leaders.
Caribbean Tourism Ministers
Saudi Arabia’s interest in CARICOM in recent times has been increasing and CARICOM member countries encouraged it. Saudi Arabia has already made significant investments in the Caribbean.
It prompted leaders, such as Trinidad and Tobago leaders help to arrange this upcoming CARICOM summit to take place in Riyadh.
Significant is the support Saudi Arabia received from The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) when it announced its support for the candidature of Saudi Arabia’s Capital Riyadh to host Expo 2030.
The Caribbean community understood and appreciated Riyadh hosting EXPO 2030 goes along with His Royal Highness Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s 2030 vision. Almost all new developments in the Kingdom are based on this vision. Hosting EXPO 2030 in Riyadh would very well be aligned with this vision.
“The Era of Change: Leading the Planet to a Foresighted Tomorrow”
The scheme for the proposed World Expo is to find solutions to fundamental challenges that confront humanity and bring together countries, international organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to educate the public, share innovation, promote progress, and foster cooperation.
EXPO 2030 will expose the world and of course, CARICOM Member States to significant technological innovations while presenting opportunities to showcase challenges and prospects in the region.
The international community will decide later this month between Milan, Busan and Riyadh as the venue for EXPO 2030.
Historic CARICOM-Saudi Arabia Meeting
According to a press release received from Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Terrance M. Drew, Prime Minister is to play a pivotal role in the inaugural CARICOM-Saudi Arabia Summit. He calls it a momentous occasion scheduled for November 16, 2023.
Saint Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Drew will join fellow leaders from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to engage in substantive discussions with Saudi Arabian counterparts.
A Saint Kitts and Nevis press release states:
“This landmark summit arises from the keen interest of the Government of Saudi Arabia in cultivating enhanced relationships with nations across the Caribbean, and Central, and South America. The primary focus is on fostering investment and trade, particularly in key sectors such as infrastructure, hospitality, energy, climate change, and environmental sustainability.
Beyond trade and investment, the summit aims to reinforce shared principles, facilitate increased people-to-people contact, and celebrate cultural heritage. It marks a significant step towards deepening ties between CARICOM nations and Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Drew will lead a distinguished delegation, including the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, among other key officials.
Notable members of the delegation include Mr. Wakley Daniel, Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office of the Nevis Island Administration; Ms. Naeemah Hazelle, Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office; Ms. Kaye Bass, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; H.E. Larry Vaughan, Ambassador to CARICOM for Saint Kitts and Nevis; and Mrs. Adelcia Connor-Ferlance, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The significance of the summit was underscored by the recent courtesy visit of His Excellency Abdullah bin Muhammad Alsaihani, the first accredited Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Saint Kitts and Nevis.
During the visit, Ambassador Alsaihani held constructive meetings with Prime Minister Hon Dr. Terrance Drew and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas. Discussions delved into the importance of robust diplomatic relations and collaboration in addressing global challenges and opportunities.
Key areas of cooperation were explored, including climate change, renewable energy, investment, and cultural exchanges. The groundwork laid during these preliminary discussions sets the stage for future strengthened partnerships with the potential to reshape national and regional dynamics and promote shared prosperity.
Jamaica will travel to Riyadh
Many CARICOM countries, including Jamaica, will travel to Riyadh with similar high-level delegations and expectations.
Trinidad and Tobago’s role in the Riyadh Meeting
The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said: Caribbean Community leaders will meet with Saudi Arabian leaders for the first-ever summit.
“As you may know Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the world, which has a huge investment fund with which they do major investments around the world and we in CARICOM, one of the things we are always short of is an inflow of foreign direct investment.
“So Saudi Arabia’s interest in the CARICOM in recent times has been increasing and we have been encouraging it. They have already made significant investments across CARICOM.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, we have been in touch and we have been part of the discussions and they have arranged with CARICOM a summit that is to take place …in Riyadh on the 16th November,” Rowley told reporters.
He said, the summit after the very successful Canada-CARICOM summit, will not affect the bilateral talks Port of Spain intends to continue with Riyad.
“Trinidad and Tobago will be present and I will be leading a delegation to this summit in Saudi Arabia, but because of how it has come quickly, our bilateral relationships and discussions, which were quite advanced with Saudi Arabia would continue after the summit,” said Rowley, adding that he would remain in Saudi Arabia for the bilaterals.
“We would be meeting with some significant potential interest,” Rowley said, adding that he would be joined at the bi-laterals by the Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Amery Browne as well as the Minister of Energy and Energy Related Industries, Stuart Young, and another government official.
He said discussions are likely to be on the issue of transportation, noting that the relevant ministry here is “quite advanced with some arrangements with respect to international air travel.
“As you know some of the biggest business in air travel today, airlines coming out of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia (and) so we are hoping to find some common ground in there with some CARICOM western interest,” Rowley said.
More than $1.3 billion in Aid by Saudi Arabia to the Caribbean
Prince Faisal bin Farhan of Saudi Arabia said at a meeting of the ASC Ministerial Council in Guatemala in May this year: ” Saudi Arabia through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), has provided more than $1.3 billion in aid to the Caribbean countries.
He said the Saudi Fund for Development acts as an integral part of the Kingdom’s expanding global partnerships and is currently working on projects worth $240 million within the Caribbean.
“Saudi Arabia has been keen to extend the ties of friendship and cooperation to the Caribbean nations,” Prince Faisal added.