African leaders urge new impetus for Afro-Asian ties

Tokyo- Japan (PANA) -- African leaders, who made a heavy presence at the 3rd Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD III) that ended here Wednesday, said they were looking forward to greater cooperation with Asian countries as an outcome of the Tokyo meeting.
"Africa has great potential in terms of natural and human resources - a major asset in forging meaningful partnership with Japan, other Asian countries and the world at large," Gabonese President Omar Bongo said in a closing address on behalf of his African peers.
"This is why TICAD III must give a new push to cooperation between us (Africa and Asia), in a relationship that is of mutual benefit to our interests," he said.
Bongo admitted that the three-day conference was held at a particularly difficult time for Africa, as "all social and economic indicators looked gloomy for the continent".
Among these were Africa's marginal participation in world trade, a very low percentage in direct foreign investment compared to other regions, low human development indices, deepening poverty and an increase in diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Others included drawbacks in the development of basic infrastructure, and the crushing weight of debt.
"True, some progress has been registered since 2000 thanks to the joint effort of Africans and their development partners, but given the present state of affairs, no country would attain or even get close to meeting the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015," Bongo observed.
He lamented that at a time when developed countries were posting record levels in earnings, public development assistance was instead down from 0.
5 percent of GDP in the 1960s to 0.
2 percent today.
"The failed Cancun conference has only added to the fears of our peoples, who feel increasingly marginalised," the Gabonese leader said.
Still, he said, Africa remained undaunted by such adversity and was pushing on with "profound reforms to improve governance, the business environment, democracy and stability, fight poverty and disease, and to lay the foundation for regional integration through the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
President Bongo said there was cause for optimism in the resolves articulated in the 10th Anniversary Declaration of TICAD, which include the political will and determination of the people and leaders of Africa to take up the challenge of sustainable development.
Bongo also noted renewed commitment on the part of the international community toward the reconstruction of Africa in a partnership based on dignity, solidarity and mutual respect.
He called for mechanisms to follow up conclusions reached at TICAD III.
In a record attendance, about 23 African heads of State and government turned up in Tokyo for the conference.
In all, 89 countries and 47 regional and international organisations, including NGOs were represented at the forum.

01 october 2003 11:13:00

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