President Uhuru Kenyatta’s three-day state visit to Botswana this week couldn’t have come at a better time. His message- ‘let’s trade together as Africans’ – including the launch of the Kenya-Botswana Business Forum Tuesday at the GICC, was equally poignant.
Any other business on his itinerary from Monday to Wednesday was incidental. And here is why.
Kenya is gearing to host the first-ever Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi from 27th to 28th August this year. TICAD is a longstanding multilateral partnership between Japan and Africa that started in 1993. The last round of meetings known as TICAD V was held in Yokohama and produced a declaration of the same name and an Action Plan that runs until 2017.
Japan committed US$32 billion for Africa’s development under TICAD V targeting six key areas – boosting economic growth; accelerating infrastructure and capacity development; empowering farmers as mainstream economic actors; promoting sustainable and resilient growth; creating an inclusive society for growth and consolidating peace, stability, democracy and good governance.
In as much as it were a state visit, Kenyatta used the opportunity to also review Africa’s progress in respect of the priority areas identified in the Yokohama Declaration and its Action Plan 2013-2017, which are still ongoing even as TICAD VI is fast approaching. Kenyatta bemoaned the low volumes and levels of trade amongst Africa’s population, which is estimated to reach two billion people by 2050. In fact, intra-African trade is as low as 12percent while according to Kenyatta, trade with Europe is “as high as 90percent”.
The recent Ministerial Preparatory Meeting in Banjul as well as the Non State Actors sensitisation meeting in Nairobi, Kenya preceding it, also singled out this (low intra-African trade) anomaly blaming it on lack of cooperation between Africa’s regional economic communities, which were initially intended to be stepping stones to continental unity. Compounding this, is that poor governance, raging conflicts, acts of terror, ethnicity or tribalism, deficient infrastructure and lack of technical skills and have conspired to consign Africa into the backwaters.
This notwithstanding the Ministerial Meeting observed and noted some measure of progress under the Yokohama Declaration. For instance, the AU’s continental framework for development - Agenda 2063 – esteems the role of regional economic communities in boosting broad based and sustainable economic growth, hence the AU Commission is working with the RECs and African countries to implement the Minimum Integration Programme (MIP).
Other efforts implemented by Africa under the pillar of boosting economic growth include the AU Strategy for Enhanced Coordinated Border Management in Africa, which is being prepared and the adoption of a regional integration index to monitor and assess progress of continental integration. The negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Area by the COMESA, EAC and SADC covering half of the membership of AU, have also been launched and negotiations will enter into force next year.
To promote and facilitate effective use of natural resources, the African Minerals Development Centre is coordinating the African Mining Vision (AMV) and Action Plan. According to TICAD V progress report, domestication of the African Mining Vision is underway in several countries. President Kenyatta’s visit and his signing of Memorandum of Understanding on the water resources management and appeal for benchmarking exercise on Kenya’s infrastructure sector, ought to be read within context.
As host of the TICAD VI Summit for which a Draft Declaration encapsulating the views of Africa’s private sector and civil society has already been designed and will be fine-tuned on August 26th, Kenyatta and his government are moving swiftly not only to build momentum for the summit, but also to position the country, East African Community (EAC) and its private sector to derive maximum benefit from the resources that will be allocated under TICAD VI to support the three thematic areas of industrialisation, health, sanitation and water and social stability.
The historic August 27-28 TICAD VI Summit will gather all the 54 African Heads of State and Government in one room at the Jomo Kenyatta International Convention Centre to sign what will be known as the ‘Nairobi Declaration’ with the Japanese Prime Minister and the other co-organisers of the TICAD process, to wit World Bank, United Nations Development Bank and African Union Commission.
The draft Nairobi declaration, a copy of which Botswana Guardian has, runs under the theme ‘Advancing Africa’s sustainable development agenda – TICAD partnership for prosperity’. The document acclaims the twin principles of ‘African ownership’ and ‘international partnership’ which defines the engagement as well as the principle of alignment with ‘Africa’s own agenda’. It’s for this reason that the Declaration calls on TICAD VI process to build on African Union’s Agenda 2063 and its Ten Year Implementation Plan as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A product of extensive consultations between senior government officials including ministers, Japanese government, international partners and Africa’s civil society, the Declaration does however lament the decline of global commodity prices and the attendant debt sustainability issues and fiscal pressures this imposes on many undiversified African economies, which largely rely on primary commodity sector, especially the extractive industries. To address this, the declaration makes the case for value addition and beneficiation, a recurring theme, that was also emphasised by Kenyatta during his visit this week.
The Declaration also underscores the imperative of ‘resilient and sustainable health system’ in maintaining and promoting national productivity and generating shared wealth drawing from the lessons of the outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which crippled socio-economic activities in the affected countries. Added to that, the burden of HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Zika virus, as well as non communicable diseases is proof that Africa’s health systems need to be strengthened to be better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to public health crises.
Thankfully, Japan Government remains the single largest contributor to the Global Fund, indicating her commitment to the achievement of universal health coverage, which principle has been extended under TICAD VI.On the question of social stability, the Declaration suggests measures to stem the tide of rising radicalisation, acts of terrorism and violent armed conflicts which impede social cohesion, destroys livelihoods and deepens vulnerabilities. On this score the document calls for the promotion of inclusive and sustainable livelihoods to manage shocks and vulnerabilities to foster shared prosperity and underpin social stability.
Other measures relate to the impact of climate change on national habitats and ways to mitigate these using international and Africa’s frameworks such as COP 21; the upcoming 22nd session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change scheduled for Morocco; the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy, 2050.
As he left Botswana this week Wednesday, President Kenyatta and his entourage had sealed some agreements to cooperate with Botswana in the areas of trade and investment, mining, health and infrastructure development. Certainly, all these deals fall within the purview of AU’s flagship projects and dovetail with the spirit and intent of TICAD VI.