During the country's national day celebrations at Expo 2020 Dubai last month, a high-level Jamaican delegation introduced attendees to the island's many assets
On February 18, Jamaica celebrated its national day at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of a weeklong series of activ ities that shone a spotlight on the Caribbean island's vibrant culture and economy. The extensive programme of artistic performances, concerts, exhibitions, bilateral meetings and business forums was attended by a high-level delegation from Jamaica, which included Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith; Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett; Donovan White, Jamaica Tourist Board's director of tourism; and Diane Edwards, president of the investment and export promotion agency Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
Expo 2020 Dubai has provided "an excellent opportunity to bring Brand Jamaica to Dubai and, indeed, to the world;' Johnson Smith said in a speech that launched the festivities. "We've made an indelible mark far beyond our size on the global community in areas such as sport, music, academia and diplomacy. Jamaica has, however, also been working diligently to create our niche and hold our own on the world stage in business, commerce and sustainable development;' she added.
According to the minister, "Jamaica came to this Expo with the overarching objectives of deepening the strong ties and enduring bilateral relationship with the UAE; building on dynamic cultural exchanges; exploring and capitalising on new potential tourism, trade and investment opportunities; and, of course, enhancing engagements with our growing diaspora in the Middle East:'
At a briefing for UAE entrepreneurs and other stakeholders held later that day, the minister noted that links between the two countries have strengthened over the last decade, with both benefitting from the implementation of various multinational initiatives. A prominent example of these is the DAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum, which was set up in 2018 as a platform for public and private sector players to explore collaborative partnerships. Another came in 2020, when the UAE government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Caribbean Community ( CARI COM), an intergovernmental organisation that includes 15 member states. Through this agreement, CARICOM and the UAE are working to, among other things, foster knowledge exchanges, increase investment flows and expand trade.
Progress towards those goals appears to be relatively swift, with Johnson Smith revealing during the business briefing that negotiations for a double-taxation treaty between Caribbean countries and the UAE are at an advanced stage.
A taste of the Caribbean Some of the celebratory events marking Jamaica's national day took place in a pavilion that Time Out Dubai ranks as being among the 13 'coolest' at Expo 2020 Dubai. Located in the Mobility District and constructed from shipping containers, the pavilion is styled around a spontaneous street party, according to the magazine, where visitors can "revel in the country's rich art and history'.'
The pavilion also showcases the huge worldwide impact Jamaicans have had on sport, particularly in athletics, and its many iconic musicians. The island has given birth to a number of musical genres over the years, but is best known for being the home of reggae, which has been listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage icon of global importance.
Another highlight of the pavilion is a focus on the stunning tropical landscapes, world-class facilities and warm hospitality that have made the island a hotspot for discerning tourists.
The biggest attraction for many visitors, however, is the fabulous and unique cuisine that is available to sample. There are a range of authentic treats on offer, such as the world-famous barbecued jerk chicken, spicy Jamaican patties, and ackee and saltfish. Rated by National Geographic as one of the world's top-ten national dishes, the latter is a delicious combination of salt cod, onion, sweet pepper, tomato, herbs, spices and ackee, a buttery-flavoured fruit that takes on the texture of soft scrambled egg after cooking.
Strong export sector
A small selection of Jamaica's other high-quality foods and drinks are available to try at the pavilion as well. With 41 per cent of its fertile lands suitable for cultivating crops and its pristine seas abounding with seafood, agriculture and fishing accounted for 7 .8 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Jamaica is a leading exporter of fresh foods such as yams, bananas, mangos, pineapples, ginger and herbs, but its harvests also provide the ingredients for its many award-winning, value-added processed goods that are increasingly prized around the world.
Prime examples are the outstanding Blue Mountain coffee, fine chocolate, spicy seasoning mixes, sauces, jellies, jams, fruit juices and a number of nutraceutical products that are associated with various health benefits. Not all of Jamaica's export goods are edible.
For instance, its abundant natural resources include the sixth-largest reserves of bauxite worldwide, plus rich deposits of first-class limestone and marble. Meanwhile, hundreds of manufacturing businesses on the island are generating not just foods, but also a diverse range of other in-demand goods that extends from cosmetics to alumina, chemi cals and petroleum-based products.
As an island, Jamaica and its export sectors were impacted by Covid-19's disruption of global supply chains. However, exports are back on track, with the most recent data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica showing that they earned $1.15 billion between January and September 2021, 26.3 per cent more than over the same period in 2020. Just as impressively, the country's tourism sector has already recovered 70 per cent of the losses it incurred during the pandemic. Together, those factors have contributed to the Jamaican economy rebounding faster than many expected, with the International Monetary Fund currently forecasting a GDP growth rate of 4.3 per cent this year.
Prior to 2020, Jamaica had experienced seven consecutive years of economic expansion. One catalyst for this was the government's implementation of various reforms that have helped build a transparent, modern and business-friendly environment for both local and international companies.
Investors in the country also benefit from its educated and English-speaking workforce, political and legal stability, robust transport infrastructure, advanced digital communications networks and trade agreements with, for instance, the UK, the US and the European Union. As a result, Jamaica has become a preferred destination for international investors in the Caribbean, with inward investments holding up well throughout the pandemic, especially in areas such as tourism, minerals, information technology and a knowledge-process outsourcing sector that is the biggest in the region.
Open for business
While at Expo 2020 Dubai, Johnson Smith drew attention to another compelling reason to invest in the country: "Jamaica has proven to be a prime location for long-term investments. With a large maritime space, we are geographically and strategically located on the main international trade routes between North and South America. Logistically, we are connected to Dubai, Singapore and Rotterdam – the opportunities practically present themselves:'
Jamaica is establishing special economic zones to help develop its status as a hub for multi-modal logistics and high-value export manufacturing that can service its region and the wider Americas. The Dubai-based World Free Zones Organisation believes it is ideally positioned to take on this role and has chosen to host its prestigious Annual International Conference and Exhibition (AICE) in Jamaica this year. Jamaican representatives at Expo 2020 Dubai have also received multiple expressions of interest in the new zones from investors in sectors as varied as agro-processing, logistics, outsourcing, pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical cannabis.
In one of the special events held at Expo 2020 Dubai in February, JAMPRO's president presented a myriad of projects that might attract UAE investors. "Jamaica is open for business and wants to work with Dubai to create a prosperous future for both of us;' said Edwards. Johnson Smith reiterated this message at the conclusion of her national-day speech: 'Tm hopeful that after all you see, hear and experience today, you will want to visit Jamaica, the Heartbeat of the World, in the very near future. Whether attending the AICE in June, exploring an investment or coming to drink Blue Mountain coffee while walking through the Blue Mountains:'
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