Last Friday, an African Business Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) was launched in style at the Marriott Hotel. It is an initiative of the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA) and from its issued statement it is evidently an evolution of an African Business Roundtable (ABR) that was formed some time ago, but was not known to the general public. It declared that their goal is to “promote the interests of African business enterprises in Guyana and to serve as an organised conduit to Government and other stakeholders in society.”
The need for the ABCC and the ABR, was stated to have arisen in the context of the the declarations of the UN’s resolutions on the International Decade for People of African Descent, (IDPAD) which spoke to the continuing impact of slavery on the group identified and of actions that could be taken to improve their condition. In the Guyanese context, the ABCC says it will also seek to develop the economic potential of the villages, which were formed in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, but which unfortunately were not integrated into the wider economy to the full extent they could have been. Because of African Guyanese being a majority in our urban centers it is often forgotten that the majority of them still live in villages.
In Guyana, subsequent to the election of the APNU/AFC government, there has been a salutary effort to give life to the exhortations of the IDPAD. In the regard, one group, Cuffy 250, had organized a forum in which President Granger delivered the feature address this year, as he did last year. He pointed out that, “over the past 25 years, there has been a remarkable revival of social consciousness. Several African-Guyanese organisations — the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA); African Heritage Foundation (AHP); African Welfare Convention (AWC); All African-Guyanese Council (AAGC); Forum for the Liberation of African-Guyanese (FLAG); National Emancipation Trust (NET); Movement for Economic Empowerment (MEE); Pan-African Movement (PAM); ‘Revival of Awareness and Promotion of African Culture (RAPAC); for example — have been established.” He then called upon African Guyanese to “mobilize and organize” themselves economically and in other ways.
It is noteworthy that President Granger and the organizers of ABCC have not echoed the calls of one individual, Ronald Waddell, who during what the President had called “the troubles” of 2000-2008, had made similar calls for “African economic empowerment” but insisted that African Guyanese boycott businesses owned by Indian-Guyanese. And it is this invidious juxtaposition of the two ethnic groups that must be avoided at all costs if Guyana as a whole can prosper. ABCC will have to ensure, as it said in its release, “Part of its goal is to strengthen efforts at national development,” within which African Guyanese would prosper.
The development – economic and otherwise – of all the various ethnic groups in Guyana must be pursued – but not at the expense of other each other. The mobilization and development of “African” businesses must be achieved in a win-win contest and not played out as a zero sum game. One of the first tasks, that we would suggest the ABCC undertake is to create a data base on all businesses and economic enterprises owned and operated by African Guyanese.
We believe that immediately this will demonstrate that African Guyanese are doing much better economically that some bemoan. Statements, such as those that claim “Indian Guyanese own 95% of the economy” have helped to unnecessarily create a siege mentality in the African Guyanese community.