10 Things Jamaica Has Contributed to the World

Members of the cast of ‘Cool Runnings’, the popular Disney Film about the exploits of the Jamaica bobsled team at the Winter Olympics in 1988 – Image via latimes.com

‘What is the greatest contribution your nation has given to the world’?

This was the question suggested by followers on Facebook to Miss Universe 2015 contestants. For scholars and practitioners of nation brand, this is the perfect question – a chance to pitch your nation to a global audience. Projecting national image is the new capital for nations in the 21st century; so important in a competitive global environment where each nation must compete with each other for their share of tourists, aid, capital, investments, students, for consumers of your products, talent and for respect and attention in the global community.

With only 30 seconds to respond, there is only so much one can say. Miss Jamaica Universe Kaci Fennell – a striking beauty sporting a distinctive low cut hairstyle – mentioned Bob Marley and the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt as contributions Jamaica has given the world.

Yet Jamaica – a tiny island located in the Caribbean Sea; a mere speck on the world map – has given so much more. For a population of merely 2.7 million people and a brutal history of plunder, enslavement and colonisation, Jamaica has  established a remarkable posture and presence in the world based on a raft of astounding accomplishments. These accomplishments are numerous, but here, I will highlight ten things that Jamaica has contributed to the world:


1. Influenced the Global ‪Civil Rights‬ Movement: Jamaica has contributed to the civil rights movements taking place across the world from the early 1960s onwards through the philosophical ideas purported by Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey, a black activist who preached about black racial identity and repatriation to Africa. Marcus Garvey became one of the most influential leaders emerging from Jamaica during the 1920s and 30s. Garvey’s advancement of Pan-African philosophies in UNIA, combined with his own beliefs became known as Garveyism. This philosophy inspired the Rastafari Movement and the Nation of Islam.

Garvey’s ideas also had a huge influence on the views of American civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who fought for equality for blacks in America and across the world. Garvey’s political actions and beliefs gave rise to social movements of activism around the world.  These grassroots movements led to further advancements in the field of civil rights worldwide.


Jamaican – Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley – one of the world’s most iconic artistes - Image via theguardian.com
Jamaican – Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley – one of the world’s most iconic artistes – Image via theguardian.com

2. Through Reggae Led Global Movement for Equality, Peace & Justice: Through the powerful message embedded in the island’s indigenous music Reggae and popularised by its iconic emissaries such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Jamaica has been at the forefront of  a global movement for equality, peace and justice since the 1970s. Songs such as Marley’s ‘One Love’ – named by the BBC as the greatest song of the 2oth century – and ‘War’ resonated with oppressed peoples on every continent and inspired a desire to fight for and protect their rights.

Indeed the expression ‘One Love’ is a widely understood expression of love and respect for all peoples regardless of race, creed or colour, Jamaica’s gift to the world.


3. Played a lead role in the global movement against apartheid in South Africa: It would be remiss not to talk about the role Jamaica played in the anti-apartheid movement across the world. Jamaica’s historical connection to Africa meant that  the plight of their African brothers and sisters suffering through apartheid in South Africa did not go unnoticed. Through  protests and petitions and songs, Jamaica kept the anti-apartheid issue on the global agenda and forced action by other nations.

4. Gave the world entirely new forms of music- Reggae & Ska: Originating in Jamaica in the early 1960s, Reggae is noted for its message of love, equality and justice. Thanks to its most iconic emissary, Bob Marley, Reggae took root around the world. Today, Reggae artistes such as Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Diana King and Shaggy are well known across the world and continue to spread Reggae’s message of peace and love.

Indeed, in 1999, to recognise the start of the new millennium, Time Magazine named Bob Marley’s album ‘Exodus’ the best album of the 20th century while British broadcaster BBC named his famous record ‘One Love,  ‘Song of the Century’. Ska itself preceded Rocksteady and Reggae, originating in Jamaica in the early 1950s, combining elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and blues. In the 1960s, Ska was the dominant music form in Jamaica, taking a hold among the urban, young and hip in London and elsewhere.


5. Introduced to the world an entirely new religion – Rastafari: Developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, Rastafarians revere the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, support repatriation to Africa, the home of their ancestors and racial pride and identity.

The followers, which now number in the thousands around the world, sport the distinctive dreadlocks hairstyle, observe various rites and customs and use weed (marijuana) as a religious sacrament. Many of Jamaica’s Reggae artistes are Rastafarians and their popularity and fame around the world helped to popularise and contribute to the expansion of Rasta culture globally.


Jamaican dubpoet, Mutabaruka. 

6. Gave global popularity to a whole new cultural lifestyle (Rasta Culture). Attendant to the global embeddedness of Rastafari was a whole new culture and lifestyle including the sporting of dreadlocks. Although this hairstyle has its origins in the far east, and among the Masai tribe in Africa it was the Jamaican Rastafarian that gave it global popularity.

Jamaica is also the country to which ‘dreadlocks’ is most associated. Rasta also introduced a whole new fashion embodied in fatigue wear and the red, green and gold of the Ethiopian flag, which Rastas adopted and a unique language. This lifestyle continues to resonate with urban youths on every continent.

red-stripe7. Gave the world sought after export products‬: Although Jamaican cuisine remains largely unknown around the world, Jamaican export products such Blue Mountain Coffee, Red Stripe Beer, Jerk Spice have been fully established worldwide, with Jamaican meat pies – patties growing in popularity. Blue Mountain coffee, for example, is one of the most expensive and sought after coffees in the world, with Japan importing the highest percentage – some 80 per cent. Jamaican Jerk has made its name globally, with its hot and spicy flavour a major appeal.

Not many beers and rums are as well known as red Stripe Beer as well as Wray and Nephew and Appleton Jamaica Rum are across the world. The latter noted as one of the top sellers among the elite in Europe.


 Jamaican sprinters Weir, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake - Image via: jamaica-gleaner.com
Jamaican sprinters Weir, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake – Image via: jamaica-gleaner.com

8. Transformed the sport of Track and Field: Known as the ‘sprint factory’ of the world, Jamaica has produced some of the world’s greatest runners. Athletes such as Merlene Ottey, Veronica-Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, and particularly Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, have helped to transform the entire field of athletics from a fading sport to the most popular event at the Olympic Games.

Breaking record after record, Jamaican athletes have set new bars of achievement in world athletics and have given the world new sprint techniques and coaching tactics.


9. Inspired  confidence and courage through Bobsled): Since its historic participation in the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada in 1988, although hailing from a country where snow does not exist, the Jamaican bobsled team has been an example of courage, confidence and triumph over adversity for many people around the world. Many other nations from with tropical climates have since participated in the Winter Games, drawing inspiration from Jamaica. 


At the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2015, the Jamaica bobsled team was the centre of international media attention for the enduring glory they bring to the Games.

10. Gave the world one of the most inspiring films of the last century. Cool Runnings‬; The inspired participation of the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Winter Olympics in 1988 became the subject of the popular Disney Film ‘Cool Runnings’. This is perhaps the most well-known film set in Jamaica and its human plot of courage and confidence and optimism continues to capture the imagination of people around the world.

It is worth mentioning that the Jamaican film ‘The Harder They Come’ starring Reggae singer, Jimmy cliff, helped to project Jamaica around the world, exposing life in the reggae industry and the subculture in which it finds its message.

Although I noted only 10 more popular contributions on this list, it is worthy of mention that  – although less known – Jamaica has contributed to the following:

  • The freeing of slaves in British colonies through the work of the Maroons who took on the British and won a Treaty;
  • Important discussions surrounding a new world economic order in the 1970s via former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley’s role in the Non-Aligned Movement;
  • Academics such as the late Stuart Hall and others who made made a massive impact upon the global knowledge economy;
  • Poets and others in literature and the arts who have helped to define and interpret the human condition, as well as
  • Scientists and agriculturalists who have contributed to human development; the developments in medical marijuana by Jamaican scientists among them.
  • Led a global campaign for the legalisation of marijuana through social and artistic activism since the 1970s. Although this is not yet the case in Jamaica, other nations, including the United States have legalized marjuana use in some states. Jamaica has begun to move to legislation decriminalizing weed for recreational use.

In sum, Jamaica has contributed to the  world a rich heritage, a vibrant culture and a proud and talented people.

#OneLove !

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Maxine Powell
8 years ago

Education…persons from all over the world have attended our universities

Delroy Reid
8 years ago


Fitz-Roy Pinnock
8 years ago

Well, miss Fennel could have expanded a bit on her response to the question but in all fairness we couldn’t expect her say half these things. The writer here had the benefit of hindsight and was able to research all these contributions after the fact. If Ms. Fennel had mentioned that Marcus Garvey was part of the civil rights movement as suggested here, she would have erred greatly. Marcus Garvey was way before the civil rights movement.

Vinnette Sista V Duhaney

The contestants were given 30 seconds to answer the questions. How much can you say in less than a minute?

Sherese Blake
8 years ago

Jamaica definitely contributed a lot to the rest of the world but why is there such a emphasis on weed in this article…that’s not a contribution to the world. Jamaica has high crime rate partly because of weed.

Ainsbirth Winter
8 years ago

They say it’s a beauty contest so what if she didn’t satisfy you academic repuirements .Probably they specify that it was for brillant of sociery the professors educators and such .

Black Raven
8 years ago

So what about our #language???! Some of the items (eg 9 &10) could have been subsumed under one topic to make room for the Jamaican language.

Dave Clarke
8 years ago

VERY proud of my Jamaican connection!

Steve G Meikle
8 years ago

Help in the Haiti during the revolution against France?

Owen Williams
8 years ago

Don’t forget our contribution to science and medicine. Remember Dr. Henry Lowe -http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/US-Gov-t-honours-Dr-Henry-Lowe

Ainsbirth Winter
8 years ago

When did it move rom being a beauty contest to a general knowledge skill test.you should include the other qualifications thay goes along with the beauty stick to what it suppose to be beauty contest.

Kaye K Tucker
8 years ago

Also our great tourist attractions

Karen Goodall
8 years ago

#kacifennellgotitright…… Miss universe judges did not want to hear about race and how we influenced riots and mass killings ……seriously…she gave the best answer, but those old judges had no idea who Bob marley is or what reggae is….they are too rich to care about our tiny Black people….

Sherese Blake
8 years ago

Poverty indeed does influence criminal activities and so does the use of illicit drugs this includes Marijuana. There are many supporting evidence that has proven the correlation between the use of drugs and criminal behavior. I’m certain that weed has not been a contribution to the rest of the world and that Jamaicans have far more things to be proud of…

Paulette Mcpherson
8 years ago


Isha Bel
8 years ago

dont forget dr thomas Lecky’s miso bull. ortanique orange , so much more things he created
contributed in the area food.. Ackee and saltfish, jerk chicken etc

Max Wilson
8 years ago

I beg to differ i think our food is popular around the wrld

Cory Mills
8 years ago

There are a lot more too!!! Lots of the worlds best known musician and sports personalities outside of track like cricket, football,basketball and american football, top beauties ms world and universe, top models, ground breaking science and scientist, revered philosophers,musicians actors actresses, breaking race barrier in the first ever category for various things that blacks have accomplished, politicians and a lot more that is rarely spoken about

Cory Mills
8 years ago

Dance and medical marijuana we have scientist that are at the forefront of cancer research especially prostate cancer

Beverley Richards
8 years ago

We have the guts to do what no other countries would try when the world herd that Jamaica is going in the winter Olympic to enter the bobsled race ,people laugh but we Jamaica did it no other West Indies country would try .and I love my Jamaica my Jamaica win or loose we try big up Jamaica

Beverley Richards
8 years ago

About crime if the government would provide work I think the crime rate would be down and all those Haitian I herd living there

Chadwick Anderson
8 years ago

Jamaica Hope (also known as Jersey-Zebu or Montgomery-Jersey) is a dairy breed of cattle originating from Hope Farm in Jamaica. The breeding started in 1910, and was an attempt to develop an animal that was adjusted to the climate of the island. It is heat tolerant, has high resistance to ticks and tick borne diseases, and can produce much milk even in the poor pasture land typical of tropical climates.[1] The breed consists of approximately 80% Jersey, 15% Zebu and 5% Holstein.[2] The whole process was to a great degree the work of Dr. Thomas Lecky, a pioneer in Jamaican… Read more »

Andrew Schloss
8 years ago

My country is blessed and full of progress, the land of wood and water, jahmaica, the second largest English speaking country on the Western Hemisphere, we are number one with the contribution we gave to the world.

Olumide Akinwumi
8 years ago

How about the most obvious? Tourism….Are you not proud of that? I think the world is tired of hearing the same old Bob Marley and Usain Bolt pride….and by the way…Rastafari is not a Jamaican thing…It’s African…Jamaicans just took it to the extreme. lol

Mark McKnight
8 years ago

When u take out all the frills and fluff it amounts to the same answer Kaci gave (with only 30 seconds). I would agree with you in adding Garvey to the mix but outside of that it’s just sports and reggae. I’m ignoring the beer and spices part since those have been around forever. Go Kaci.

Melvina Campbell Edwards


Jacque McLean
8 years ago

Help with the building to the Panama Canal.

Sonia Griffiths
8 years ago

I think miss Universe could sell her Jamaica more.

Patricia Robinson
8 years ago

What about Blue Mountain coffee which is now being sold in Starbucks in Japan just need here in Canada now

Joset Dell
8 years ago

Though I committed on this before, please do not forget the greatest invention and contribution Jamaica has made in history….. Is telephone…….John Bell the world cannot serve a without technology…….

Trevor McPherson
8 years ago

It is often said in Jamaica we little but we tallawa Jamaican is one of the genius and hard working people full of confidence and pride. out spoken and always stand up for our right and the right of the ones that is oppress..