When I asked Carol Hay, the Director of Marketing for the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, to tell me one or two things about the Caribbean, I didn't expect that she would bring out a big map. But she did, and that was when I realized how much I didn't know about the Caribbean. The occasion was the 2019 Akwaaba African Travel Market held last month in Lagos, and I had gone to the Caribbean Tourism exhibition stand to pokenose. This article was partly inspired by the response I got at the stand. Not everyone knows what the Caribbean is, and certainly, not everyone knows what it is not. So I went digging and came up with these five things you probably didn't known about the Caribbean.
It is Not a Country
Perhaps, the commonest misconception people have about the Caribbean is that it is a country, just a country. This particular misconception is probably the most disturbing because it essentially bothers on identity. While some people think that the Caribbean is a country tucked away in a certain island, the capital of which is Jamaica, others think that it is a sovereign nation whose capital city is Barbados. But in truth, the Caribbean is not a country, neither is it's capital Jamaica nor Barbados.
The Caribbean Islands is an archipelago and a collection of over 3,000 islands in the Caribbean Sea, primarily bordered by North America, South America and the Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbean sprawls across more than 1.06 million square miles and consists of up of 28 independent countries and other territories. There are 13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories in the Caribbean. Up to 5 major language are spoken including English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Antillean creole. Now, you know that the Caribbean is not a country.
Open to Business
Often times, when the Caribbean is mentioned, we think of exotic holiday destinations, we think of vacation, city escapes, and endless fun. We think of boutique hotels overlooking pristine beaches and bays, we think of luxury yachts and boats cruising along highbrow coastal lines. We think of fascinating festivals, colourful carnivals and vibrant street parties. We think of exquisite gastronomy and signature delicacies including fresh seafood, and mouth-watering desserts. We think of scallops and lobsters as well as giant prawns and shrimps. And then we think of cocktails, liming, and the popular Caribbean rum. In fact, when the Caribbean is mentioned, we think of pleasure and fun. But that's not very right.
Make no mistake about it and don't get it twisted. In truth, the Caribbean is blessed with all of that mentioned above and even much more. But the Caribbean is definitely more than pleasure. It is surely more than fun, and it is certainly more than fresh seafood.
With well-regulated legal and financial frameworks as well as healthy potential for business growth, the Caribbean provides an enabling environment for safe investment. Real estate business is particularly thriving in the Caribbean. Whether you want them for private use or for rent, investing in real estate in the Caribbean pays off sooner than later as there's constant need for them. Besides, real estate, you could also establish other businesses and become a successful entrepreneur.
The good thing is that you can combine business with pleasure in the Caribbean. You can call it bleisure, if you like. So, you can discuss business with partners while indulging in a beachfront dining under the tapestry of stars. You can negotiate a deal while taking a walk along the sandy beach under the atmosphere of a soothing Ocean breeze. You can seal a deal and sign on the dotted lines while sipping exotic cocktails on a luxury yacht.
In the final analysis, the Caribbean is not only open to business, it also means business. In the Caribbean, you can combine business with pleasure. So when next you pack your bags to travel to the Caribbean, don't leave your business sense behind, you might need it.
Closer Than You Think
Having know that the Caribbean is open to business, you're now probably worried about the distance. But don't worry, the Caribbean is not a distant land, not necessarily. Travelling to the Caribbean from Africa is not like travelling to Australia or New Zealand. You don't need to be on the world's longest flight to get there, at least not at the moment.
As a matter of fact, the Caribbean is only one-stop away from major African cities including Lagos, Abuja, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Accra, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Egypt etc. Currently, no African airline operates to any destination in the Caribbean. However, several major airlines flying into and out of Africa, operate up to daily flights to the Caribbean. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, KLM, Air France and Iberia all fly to the major Islands in the Caribbean including Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, Haiti, Belize etc. The rest of the islands are well covered by regional airlines.
If you're contemplating travelling to the Caribbean for whatever reasons, don't let the map fool you. And don't let the distance deter you. It might just be only one-stop away from the airport near you. The Caribbean is not a distant land, it is closer than you think. So, get up and go!
TAX and VAT Haven
Having a business or investing in one in the Caribbean can be very rewarding, especially with respect to applicable taxes and VATs. A lot of the Caribbean countries and territories are tax havens, most of which are pure tax havens, in that they impose no taxes at all. This also applies to even shopping in some of the countries and territories. Let's take a look at a few of them.
The Bahamas is a pure tax haven. It provides business related services including offshore banking, registration of offshore companies, registration of ships, and offshore trust management. Offshore companies are not required to submit any accounting records to tax authorities.
While not a pure tax haven, Barbados is a very low-tax environment for businesses incorporated in Barbados. Unlike most other Caribbean countries and territories, Barbados does have double taxation treaties with a number of other countries. In Panama, companies and their owners are not subject to income taxes, corporate taxes, or local taxes, and people of any nationality can incorporate their businesses.
In addition to being a tax haven for investors and entrepreneurs, Barbados is also a tax haven for shoppers. With no import duties or VAT charged, tax-free shopping makes items 30% cheaper in Barbados than in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. So apart from knowing that your products are genuine, you can actually shop till you drop in Barbados.
Other tax havens in the Caribbean Island include the Cayman Islands, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Nevis, and Anguilla. If you're thinking of going shopping, investing or even incorporating your own business in the Caribbean, this is a good incentive.
Strong Ties with Africa
As part of events leading up to the African Diaspora Conference at the 2019 Akwaaba African Travel Market in Lagos, delegates from the Caribbean visited Badagry from where more than 500,000 Africans were sold into slavery over 200 years ago. The tour of Badagry and particularly the popular slave routes, afforded them the opportunity to 'look around' and even attempt to trace or retrace their roots.
Without much effort, our Caribbean guests emotionally connected to the African cultures and even more so, to the slave route narrative. Except for the heavy British-American accent in which they spoke, nothing gave them away. Nothing suggested they weren't Africans. They were unassuming and blended very easily. They behaved as if they belonged. You couldn't easily tell they had crossed seas and Oceans, and travelled through three continents to be in Lagos. And this was a good sign that their ancestors could have left the shores of Africa through Badagry. This was a strong sign that their ancestors could, in fact, have been from Africa.
At this point, I'm not sure I care much about what available history says about the origin of the Caribbeans. After all, history is made by those who write them, and I'm not sure how much of history is written by Africans. Whoever wrote the Caribbean history couldn't have been fair to Africa and Africans, they lacked the capacity to. Anyway, there are strong indications that the Caribbeans, at least a lot of them, are descendants of African slaves, mostly from West Africa. I so much believe in that theory.
Knowledge is power. Isn't that what they say? Anyway, now you know that the Caribbean is not a country, now you know that the Caribbean has strong ancestral ties to Africa, now you know that the Caribbean is a tax haven, now you know that the Caribbean is open to business, and now you know that the Caribbean is closer than you think. So, get up and go!
Chidozie Uzoezie is a Travel and Tourism Blogger and a Content Creator. He's the CEO of The Afritraveller, Africa's trendy travel and tourism blog.