Bangkok Statement on Furthering Asia-Africa Cooperation

Second Asia-Africa Forum: Furthering Asia-Africa Cooperation,
Bangkok, 11-13 June, 1997

I. Introduction

1. The 1993 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD I) emphasized the importance of Asian experience for African development. Following TICAD I, the first Asia-Africa Forum, held in December 1994 in Bandung adopted a framework for Asia-Africa cooperation. The second Asia-Africa Forum, held from 11 to 13 June, 1997, in Bangkok, was attended by senior officials from 44 African countries, 11 Asian countries, 12 donor countries, 10 international organizations and 4 research institutes. The Forum reviewed the progress made in implementing the Tokyo Declaration and the Bandung Framework, and explored ways and means of furthering Asia-Africa cooperation. The Forum was also part of the preparatory process for the second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II) to be held in 1998. The discussions at the Bangkok Forum focused on the specific areas of Capacity Building, Sustainable Agricultural Development and Food Security and Private Sector Development.

II. Current state of Asia-Africa cooperation

2. The Forum reviewed the significant advance made in Asia-Africa cooperation since Bandung and noted the growing number of bilateral agreements in such sectors as infrastructure, food and agriculture, natural resources exploration and human resources development. It also noted that, in addition to Japan, other Asian countries are emerging as development partners. It was hoped that additional resources could be made available for Asia-Africa cooperation.

3. It was recognized that trade and investment flows between Asia and Africa, though still relatively low, have been rising steadily in recent years to a level where Southeast Asia has become a significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. Participants were also encouraged by instances of triangular cooperation involving donor and developing countries and observed that such cooperation could be expanded to involve more Asian and African countries.

4. The Forum observed, however, that since development is more a matter of choice than of chance, deepening and broadening Asia-Africa cooperation requires effective political commitment on both sides. While recognizing the significant economic reforms that have been undertaken in many African countries to date, the Forum urged them to intensify the pace of structural transformation of their economies. Among other things, this would provide improved opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships with Asian countries.

III. Elements for furthering Asia-Africa cooperation

5. The Forum underlined the need for African countries to anchor their development process in their traditions, value-systems and cultures. In this connection, African countries could draw lessons from Asian countries on how to ensure that their development programmes reflect their own priorities. This, together with increased transparency, accountability and good governance, will lay the foundation for long-term sustainable development. 6. Participants recognized the potential for expanding trade and investment between Asia and Africa to levels comparable to those between Asia and other regions, as the environment in African countries becomes more conducive. They also noted the possibilities for broadening triangular cooperation to include private sector, academic and research institutions and NGOs.

7. While there has been some progress in networking as recommended by the Bandung Framework, the Forum recognized that more needs to be done in this area. Moreover, the need to establish information dissemination systems that would enable Asian and African countries to expand opportunities for cooperation in various areas and among all partners was emphasized. In this regard, areas of cooperation should be clearly defined, with concrete and measurable outcomes.

8. The Forum noted some tangible progress made in bringing about good governance and sustainable development. At the same time it acknowledged human and institutional capacities remained limited in majority of African countries. They should continue to enhance these capacities, making optimum use of resources, expertise, and skills available to them.

9. The Forum noted the efforts made by African countries to develop an enabling environment for capacity building, including human, institutional, political and economic aspects. However, it also emphasized the urgent need for African countries to further strengthen their national, sub-regional and regional capacities to promote the process of integration and to effectively face the challenges of globalization. In order to promote social and economic development, alleviate poverty, and support a more competitive private sector, the Forum stressed the importance of strengthening the capacity of public sector institutions.

10. The Forum emphasized the need for African countries, in the context of budgetary allocation and public sector investment, to accord priority to education, training, women's empowerment and youth development. The Forum further urged African countries to adopt measures aimed at reversing the brain drain, and to retain and maintain national competencies.

11. Given the rapid pace of economic liberalization and globalization, it was suggested that the competitiveness of African countries could be further enhanced through networking with counterpart institutions and centres of excellence in the Asian region. The Forum noted the usefulness of existing frameworks for bilateral, regional and inter-regional cooperation, .including technical and economic cooperation among developing countries. It also called for increased support for triangular cooperation. In this regard, the Forum called upon donor countries to provide additional resources. A new development strategy based on global partnership also could serve as a viable policy framework for advancing South-South cooperation. The Forum emphasized the need to include NGOs, civil society organizations, and voluntary agencies, as well as women and youth.

12. The Forum noted that, although African countries continue to rely heavily on agriculture, including animal husbandry and fishery, for both income and employment, the sector is not as productive, efficient or diversified as its potential suggests. The main constraints to increasing agricultural production and raising productivity include the low priority accorded to this sector, poor physical infrastructure, limited utilization of advanced technologies, inadequate access to credit and appropriate technologies for small-scale farmers, and the weak linkages between research institutions and farmers. The Forum urged that African countries should give higher priority to agriculture and, in particular, to the need for diversification of production in the sector. It was also emphasized that special attention should be paid to the role and needs of women in agriculture.

13. The Forum noted that great scope exists for Asia-Africa cooperation in agriculture and food security. The areas outlined below are of particular importance:

Agricultural research institutes should formulate joint projects with donors, national experts, and NGOs to address problems across all the agro-ecosystems. National, subregional and inter-regional networking among research institutes should be strengthened in order to facilitate the generation, adaptation, evaluation, and dissemination of agriculture related knowledge and technologies. Asian countries should facilitate the transfer of these technologies, including biotechnologies;

Water resource management programmes should be developed, focusing particularly on establishing irrigation schemes and developing underground water resources. Special attention should also be paid to drought resistant crops and farming systems that can cope with irregular rainfall. The experiences of Asian countries in these areas should be utilized through technical cooperation projects, including triangular cooperation modalities;

Asian countries should encourage investment in the agricultural sector of African countries. In this context, African countries may need to review their land use policies and legislation, in particular as they relate to land tenure systems.

14. The Forum emphasized the crucial role of the private sector for sustained economic growth in African countries. While it was understood that there is no single Asian model which can be directly replicated, it was noted that successful economies in Asia and Africa have implemented policies and strategies conducive to private sector development.

15. The Forum recognized that there are numerous opportunities for public and private sector Asia-Africa cooperation in promoting the private sector in African countries. Among these are the development of physical infrastructure and communications, expansion and deepening of the financial sector, managerial, vocational and skills training, promotion of foreign investment, and development of joint ventures.

16. The Forum proposed that specific modalities for furthering such cooperation could include bilateral visits between African and Asian countries; development of linkages between private sector groups and associations, networking and sharing of information through exchange of visits and other mechanisms, and utilization of Asian professionals able to undertake short-term assignments in African countries.

IV. Conclusion

17. The Forum reiterated its strong support for TICAD II, and the preparatory process currently being implemented. The results achieved in the Forum are also an input into TICAD II.

18. The Forum agreed that a third Asia-Africa Forum should be held and be devoted to assessing the progress of Asia-Africa cooperation in the light of the outcome of TICAD II. It expressed the firm belief that Asia-Africa cooperation would, in the foreseeable future, represent a major component of the new global partnership which is emerging.

19. Finally, the Forum expressed its gratitude to the Government and people of Thailand for the warm and generous hospitality extended to the participants and the excellent facilities provided, which created a conducive atmosphere for a productive exchange of views.