I understand your concern.
I work for Honda since 1990 and at first I was a bit confused too.
The last Africa Twins sold in 2002/2003 were probably built in 2001/2002 but all of them are 1996 YMs (YM = Year Model) RD07a.
The YM has nothing to do with manufacturing year/date of 1st registration.
FWIW, the YMs for the AT are (if my mind serves me well - subject to further confirmation):
The FMCs (Full Model Change) ocurred somewhere very close to the timelines above and originated a model name change (for example, RD07 changed to RD07a)
The MMCs (Minor Model Change) normally happens every year when there are some small changes to the model, sometimes, only stylistic and cosmetic changes and DOES NOT originate model name change.
For example, the RD07 was produced for 3 full years and during its 1st production year, it was sold together with the runout RD04 (while there were still RD04s in the market - we call this the runout model, in this case it was the RD04 runout); likewise, the RD07 was sold together with the RD07a, during its (RD07's) last year of production.
So, when buying a Honda (car, bike or other) what you're looking into is the manufacturing year which must be the same or very close to the 1st registration (license plate) date.
I hope I helped clearing the confusion.