Tensions between African countries also weighed on the conference. On Friday, Morocco announced a boycott of the event, recalling its ambassador to Tunisia to protest the inclusion of representatives of the Polisario Front movement fighting for independence in Western Sahara.
The conference comes as Russia and China seek to expand their economic and other influence in Africa.
The event, held in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, attended by 30 African heads of state and government, involved Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19 before the summit. Many important meetings are being held remotely, including
The Japanese government founded and hosted the first TICAD Summit in 1993. The conference is currently co-hosted by the United Nations, the African Union and the World Bank. Summit has produced 26 development projects in his 20 countries in Africa.
Discussions are expected this year on increasing Japanese investment in Africa, with a particular focus on supporting start-ups and food security initiatives. Japan plans to provide support for rice production, along with a pledged $130 million in food aid.
The African Center for Strategic Studies, an academic arm of the US Department of Defense, compared the format of the conference to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
But this weekend’s summit has sparked controversy in Tunis, which is facing a severe economic crisis, including recent food and petrol shortages.
Critics have spoken of the city’s “whitewashing” by the organizers, which saw cleaner streets and infrastructure improvements in preparation for the conference’s summit. One local commentator said the North African capital appeared to wear makeup to impress the participants.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian journalists’ union released a statement on Friday condemning the restrictions on coverage and information about the summit.
Morocco’s complaint stems from Tunisia’s invitation to attend the leaders of the Polisario Front. Morocco annexed Western Sahara from Spain in her 1975, and the Polisario Front fought to make Morocco an independent state until her 1991 ceasefire. This is a very sensitive issue for Morocco, which seeks international recognition of its authority over Western Sahara.
“The welcoming of the leader of the separatist militia by the Tunisian head of state is a grave and unprecedented act that deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people,” Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Morocco announced it was withdrawing from the meeting and recalling its ambassador for consultations. But the ministry said the decision “does not call into question the Kingdom of Morocco’s commitment to the interests of Africa”.
Contributed by Tarik El-Barakah in Rabat, Morocco.
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