The seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) wrapped up in Yokohama, Japan, last Friday, with participating nations and organisations committing themselves to the promotion of advocacy platforms to attain greater visibility for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA).
The 'Yokohama Declaration 2019' adopted at the end of the conference said improved advocacy would enable the private sector and other stakeholders in Africa and Japan to enhance their participation in the AfCTFA.
The TICAD was co-organised by the Japanese government, the United Nations and the African Union (AU) Commission.
"We commit to supporting the full implementation of the AfCTFA through measures that concretely link the African private sector with its counterparts in Japan," the 13-page declaration said.
Ghana's delegation, which was led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, fully participated in the three-day forum, which was on the theme: "Advancing Africa's development through people, technology and innovation".
The AfCTFA entered into force with the launch of its operational tools at the 12th AU Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger, on July 7, 2019. Ghana has been selected to host the headquarters of the AfCTFA.
The participants commended the efforts of the AU and its member states to deepen economic integration, which they said manifested in the birth of the AfCTFA .
"We noted the progress made towards the operationalisation of the AfCTFA to deepen national economic integration and achieve the objectives of the Abuja
Treaty and recognise that the AfCTFA promotes more sustainable and inclusive trade that is less dependent on the fluctuations of commodity prices," the declaration added.
In an accompanying action plan for the implementation of the Yokohama Declaration, Japan said it will dispatch debt management and macro-economic policy advisors to Africa to support the operationalisation of the AfCTFA.
Countries to which the advisors will be assigned will receive advice on debt management and improving micro-economic policies.
The declaration also said it believed that quality infrastructure would play a key role in enhancing trade among African countries, for which reason it said Japan would continue to support Africa to develop its infrastructure.
Recognising the role of the private sector in Africa's development, the declaration welcomed the establishment of a Japan Business Council by the government of Japan and the private sector of that country to encourage and facilitate business transactions between Japan and AU member states.
It also expressed delight at efforts to support women’s entrepreneurship through financial and technical assistance.
It further reaffirmed the importance of supporting agricultural transformation through better quality, higher value products and developing food value chains to improve food security and the livelihoods of African people to accelerate Africa’s growth .
On health, the declaration said TICAD 7 assured the reinforcement of primary health care and the promotion of resilient health systems, including sustainable domestic health financing through enhanced collaboration between health and finance authorities.
It recognised the progress made by the AU's Centre for Disease Control and pledged support for the centre to continue to deliver quality services to the people.
The declaration further pledged the commitment of the partners to strengthen national and regional capacity for preparedness, early warning and rapid response to health emergencies.
Peace and security
It also recognised the importance of conflict prevention and how to address the root causes of conflict .
"In this regard, we must continue to improve service delivery, enhance social protection, expand crime prevention, combat gender-based violence and empower vulnerable communities, especially women and youth," it said.
It encouraged strict observance and the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on the non-proliferation of light weapons, as well as illicit financial and other activities, terrorism and violent extremism.
At a joint news conference at the end of the conference, the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, said Japan-Africa relations were moving to greater heights.
"We are able to set a firm direction for becoming a partner of Africa, which is developing progressively," he said.
Mr Abe invited the youth of Africa to visit Japan to study and learn about the Asian country. In the last few years, he said, 2,500 Africans had been invited to Japan to participate in many areas of study.
He also hinted of plans by Japan to host 9,000 African youth to undergo human resource training and support and encourage them to achieve the aspirations of their people.