PRIME Minister Moses Nagamootoo has emphasised the importance of partnerships as he gave assurance of Government’s commitment to working with the newly launched African Business Roundtable, also known as the African Business Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) on Friday.The ABCC was formed partly out of a need to strengthen the economy of Guyana and by the urgings contained in the United Nations General Assembly resolutions A/Res/68/237 and A/Res/69/16, dealing with the International Decade for People of African Descent and the Programme of Action associated with it.
Speaking to a room filled with academics, entrepreneurs and members of the public and private sectors at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown, the Prime Minister, who is performing the duties of President, said that “there will become a time when we work in partnership that we will recognise everyone when we work in partnership.”
“I speak on behalf of the Government of Guyana here when I say that this initiative ought to be applauded, it is a modest start, but in whatever way Government can encourage you to pool your resources and to overcome the present challenges in Guyana , we will keep those initiatives,” he said.
He said that there was a debate in Parliament in 2007 on a motion which was tabled by the late Debra Backer and the issue of obligations of colonial slave masters in terms of reparations came up for discussion.
“Any Government should recognise the fact that there exists the issue of African ancestral lands,” he noted, as he cited similar rights accorded by other groups.
He said that the issue centred on the recognition that only a sympathetic Government would recognise the issue of equity regarding reparations, noting that it remains an issue until today.
He recounted a group which had approached him while he was a practising attorney amid reports that their cooperative lands were being seized by the previous Government at Abary in Berbice. He mentioned the issue, noting that the contention of entitlement dates back to the days of the enslaved Africans.
“And so people will always carry the burden of injustice if their entitlement is not carried,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that the Village Movement is one which was built on partnerships, and it could not have been completed without togetherness.
African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) Director, Dr Eric Phillips, described the launch as a historic occasion.
He said that on November 7, 1839, freed slaves walked to the capital city with a wheelbarrow of coins and paid for the purchase of Plantation Northbrook which they renamed victoria.
Dr Phillips, who is also an advisor to the President, reminded the audience that the systemic bonding of people of African descent dates back to the start of the Village Movement in Guyana.
“Nowhere else in the world was such a Village Movement successfully implemented,” he said.
He said almost 177 years later, another group of entrepreneurs officially launched the ABCC. “History is indeed repeating itself,” he contended.
Dr Phillips said the body, which politicians and businesspeople seem afraid to be associated with, started in July 2015 and in November 2015, almost year ago, a group from ACDA met with President Granger to discuss village economic development and the economic revitalisation of politically neglected communities.
This year, the group shared its strategic plans with the President in the areas of land acquisition, banking and finance and oil and gas development as well as agricultural diversification, among other matters.
He told those gathered that the ABCC views itself differently as compared to local private sector organisations.
“The ABCC sees itself as a development partner with the Government of Guyana,” he said, pointing out that the chamber’s launch will see the hosting of a series of meetings across the country.
Part of its goal is to strengthen efforts at national development and achieving surety of economic inclusion through support for the growth of private businesses owned by Guyanese of African descent.
Additionally, the ABCC will seek to create opportunities for self-development and the transformation of villages into viable economic centres.
It also seeks to create training opportunities for members and collect, compile, analyse, disseminate and publish reliable statistical data for business decision-making.
Towards these ends, the ABCC will work with all persons, organisations, and institutions that seek to achieve the objectives of economic and social inclusion of people of African descent in the full enjoyment of Guyana’s patrimony in recognition of their uncompensated contribution to the development of Guyana, and in accordance with the objectives of the two UN resolutions at reference and the relevant provisions of the Guyana Constitution.