The NEWS (Monrovia)

Africa: Ticad Participants Resolve to Improve Food Security, Economic Growth

The fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) ended Friday in the Japanese city of Yokohama with an understanding that growth of the agricultural sector in Africa and rural reform measures are vital for economic growth and food security, and would contribute to poverty reduction.

The assertion is based on the fact that more than two-thirds of African people reside in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their income and livelihood.

African countries as well as Japan and other development partners emphasized the importance of tackling the acute problem caused by recent sharp increases in food prices and its adverse effects on poverty.

The conference also noted that bio-fuel production should be compatible with food security. The participants welcomed Japan's initiative of emergency food assistance announced by Prime Minister Fukuda. Japan also expressed its intention to take up the issue of rising food prices at the G8 Hokkaido Toyko Summit, which was welcomed by the participants.

Participants underscored that the outcome of the discussions on this matter at TICAD IV should be taken to the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bio-energy slated to be held in Rome, Italy, next month.

The Conference noted that to improve food security, it is necessary for countries, especially those with low agricultural productivity, to increase agricultural production and productivity. In this regard, the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation, technology transfer for development of improved seeds, financial assistance to purchase fertilizers and organizing farmers' groups were highlighted.

According to an Executive Mansion dispatch from Yokohama, participants from African countries expressed their expectations for improving rural livelihoods and business opportunities through the promotion of high-value and niche crops, use of high-yielding seeds, and expansion of agri-business and agricultural processing.

The importance of the transfer of innovative water resources management and irrigation to increase agricultural productivity was also underscored. The participants underlined that it was imperative for initiatives to enhance the economic empowerment of women in particular, as they are extensively involved in agriculture in Africa. They welcomed Japanese initiatives such as the doubling of rice production in Africa, and they noted that New Rice for Africa (NERICA) is a good example of research and development.

Convened under the theme, "Towards a Vibrant Africa: a Continent of Hope and Opportunity", the conference identified a number of priority areas that are vital to sustained economic growth and development. They include, Boosting economic growth; Ensuring "human security," including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the consolidation of peace and good governance; as well as addressing environmental issues and climate change.

Many African countries cited the development of road networks, ports, electricity networks, and other infrastructure as critical to economic integration and the promotion of trade and investment in Africa. Japan's new initiatives in these areas were enthusiastically welcomed.

Participants reconfirmed the importance of pro-poor infrastructure development and active involvement of the private sector. The maintenance of infrastructure was also considered as critical for sustainable development. Participants highlighted that processes for obtaining financing for infrastructure from multilateral institutions need to be quicker and more flexible.

Participants reaffirmed the contributions of the TICAD process to African development over the past 15 years, noting its significant role in mobilizing the international community's interest and commitment to African development and broadening international partners' support for African efforts to alleviate poverty and accelerate economic growth.

The Conference noted that many African countries have made steady improvements in the consolidation of peace, good governance, economic growth and social development in recent years. The continent's economic growth rate has improved significantly, from less than 3% in 1999 to 5.3% in 2006 and to a projected 5.9% in 2007. Sound economic policy has also resulted in improved levels of trade and investment in many cases. The conference recognized and commended the efforts of African countries and urged the continued support of the international community.

Regarding trade investment and tourism, African representatives emphasized the private sector's critical role in growth, including diversifying the economy and making key investments that will ensure sustained economic growth. Enhanced public-private partnerships were urged in order to build confidence and lead to increased domestic and international private investment.

Japan's initiative to start the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) Facility for African Investment to promote private investment in Africa was highly appreciated.

Participants highlighted the need for "added value" of agricultural products and natural resources, particularly in light of linkages to diversified employment opportunities.

Participants emphasized the importance of trade in bolstering Africa's economic growth and reducing poverty. They also expressed their expectations for the early, fair and balanced conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). Other representatives called on the international community to pay attention to middle-income countries, especially in setting conditions for concessional loans.

On the consolidation of peace, the Conference highlighted Africa's significant progress in advancing peace in recent years and cited this positive trend as a foundation for development that should be reinforced. Participants recognized the importance of ensuring the peace dividends reach the entire population. African ownership and the African Union's initiative in ensuring the security of the continent were welcomed by the participants.

The conference underscored the importance of providing seamless support from the earliest stage of post-conflict reconstruction, covering a wide range of peace building measures. The Conference highly valued the vital support for these measures provided through the TICAD process and urged development partners to continue their support. It also welcomed the establishment of the Peace Building Commission.

Participants emphasized that not only assistance for post-conflict reconstruction, but also conflict prevention and risk management to minimize the effects of conflict, was needed. Participants emphasized the importance of civil society in peace-building efforts and stressed the necessity of addressing youth unemployment to prevent the relapse of conflicts.

In order to bring about peace and sustainable development, proactive conflict prevention could be more effective than simply reacting to the conflicts themselves. Participants recommended a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention by African countries and the international community.

The conference welcomed progress in improving governance in many African countries. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was recognized as a successful AU/NEPAD and Africa-owned initiative. The significant support provided by UNDP to the APRM was welcomed. Participants cited capacity building in executive, legislative, judicial, public administration and electoral institutions as an ongoing priority. The protection of human rights was also highlighted.

On health, there was general agreement and recognition that political leadership, a multi-sectoral approach and further international and national resources are required for achieving the MDGs. Many participants also underscored that a more results-oriented approach needs to be taken and a system under African countries' ownership to evaluate health-related performance be established.

There were also suggestions that it is time to reconsider the current cooperation among African countries, development partners and civil society organizations in order to tackle health-related issues in a more efficient manner.

Participants from African countries stressed their renewed commitment to prioritize and address health-related challenges, particularly in light of high maternal and under-five mortality rates and the prevalence of infectious diseases. They stressed that addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria must be an ongoing priority.

Participants noted that well-balanced and comprehensive approaches would be necessary to strengthen health systems. Emphasizing that health system must urgently address the training and retention of health workers, the participants called on the international community for greater attention to this issue.

The conference endorsed efforts to widen strategic partnerships for African development, including the active engagement of emerging industrialized nations, which can play an important role in South-South and triangular cooperation.

The upcoming Africa Asia Business Forum was welcomed to promote specific business matches between Asian and African private enterprises within the context of Asia-Africa Cooperation.

Meanwhile, a document referred to as the "Yokohama Declaration" has been presented and endorsed by participants. The Declaration summarized the outcome of the TICAD process over the past 15 years and confirmed the continuing political commitment of Japan and other partners to African development.

The "Yokohama Action Plan," outlining measures to be implemented through the TICAD process during the next five years and a "TICAD Follow-up Mechanism" to monitor implementation and assess the impact of the TICAD process, were introduced. The Declaration also noted Japan's commitment to present the outcome of TICAD IV to the G8 Hokkaido Toyko Summit to be held from 7 to 9 July 2008.

Regarding education, the conference emphasized the need for African countries to expand access to basic education while simultaneously improving educational quality in order to achieve Education for All (EFA) and the related MDG 2 and develop the human resources necessary for growth and sustainable socio-economic development. The importance of achieving gender equality in this regard was also highlighted.

Participants emphasized school construction/rehabilitation, human resources, and access to sufficient and suitable teaching/learning materials as major challenges for improving basic education in Africa, especially in rural areas, and welcomed the initiatives to address these areas announced by the Japanese Government.

Participants from African countries stressed their hopes to expand vocational education and training to enable more youth to acquire needed skills for job readiness and to improve technical and vocational education for business and entrepreneurship in order to promote economic development. They emphasized the importance of post-basic education and higher education/research with due attention to science and technology.

TICAD conference brought together 51 African countries, 74 international and regional organizations, private sector, civil society organizations and notable individuals, all of whom contributed greatly to the discussions.

Also participating in the Conference were representatives from 34 partner countries, including the G-8 and Asian countries. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) is a Summit-level international policy forum dedicated to African development. This year's summit from May 28 to 30 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the TICAD process.

The organization of the first TICAD conference was announced by the Government of Japan in December, 1991 at the United Nations General Assembly, which adopted the UN new agenda for the development of Africa in the 1990s.

The first TICAD conference was organized in 1993 to promote high level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners. It has since evolved into a major global framework to facilitate the implementation of initiatives for promoting African development under the principles of African "ownership" and "partnership" between Africa and the international community.

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