Japan elects to bridge Africa and Asia as TICAD III opens

Tokyo- Japan (PANA) -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced a $1-billion aid package for Africa over the next five years, pledging to lay the "bridge between Asia and Africa," as the 3rd Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD III) kicked off here Monday.
A record 23 African heads of State and government are attending what TICAD III chairman Yoshiro Mori hailed in his opening remarks as "an international conference of unprecedented scale in the history of Japanese diplomacy.
"  In a keynote address, Koizumi recalled that TICAD was born ten years ago with the main objective or rekindling international interest in Africa which, in the post-Cold War era, began to wane.
He re-echoed a warning sounded two years earlier by his predecessor Mori, who on the morrow of a heart-rending trip to the continent had affirmed that "there will be no stability and prosperity in the world in the 21st Century unless the problems of Africa are resolved.
"  As a champion of the TICAD process, Koizumi put Japan's assistance to Africa in the last decade at some $12 billion, besides training more than 10,000 Africans and deploying some 7,000 Japanese experts across the continent.
  "Over the next five years Japan plans to make grants totalling $1 billion in areas such as health and the fight against AIDS, education, water supply and food aid to Africa," Koizumi pledged as support to the human development component of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) -- the focal point of TICAD III.
   In further pledges, Koizumi said Japan would "promote investment in Africa by Japanese companies through overseas investment loans and other measures totalling $300 million over the next five years.
"  He said Japan further envisages progressive debt write-offs of up to $3 billion under the debt-relief initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
However, Koizumi believes that although the central aim of TICAD III is "to tap from the knowledge and experience of the international community to push forward the New Partnership for Africa's Development," only Africans themselves would in the long run "make the 21st Century the African Century.
"  He said TICAD's future rests in Africa's ownership of its development options to expand partnership, while Japan "hopes to act as a bridge between Asia and Africa.
" Koizumi said it was Japan's intention to harness Asia's experience and vigour with a view to bringing in "diversity and dynamism to Africa's development efforts.
" African Union chairman Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and John Kufuor of Ghana are in attendance.
Other African leaders here are King Mswati III of Swaziland, Presidents Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar, Levi Mwanawassa of Zambia, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Issaias Afeworki of Eritrea and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi.
Also in attendance are Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Mohamed Ghannouchi of Tunisia and Bernard Makuza of Rwanda.
"This is the very first time such a number of African leaders are gathered here," conference chairman Yoshiro Mori exclaimed, noting further the attendance of "more than 1,000 delegates from 89 countries and 47 international and regional organisations.
" All African leaders at the three-day Afro-Asian meeting would make presentations at a plenary session on poverty reduction Monday afternoon.
  There are five such sessions, two of which took stock Monday morning of TICAD ten years on, and the evolution of NEPAD.
Two more plenaries are billed for Tuesday, one focusing on expansion of partnership between Asia and Africa as well as between African countries, while the other concerns dialogue with the civil society.
Six working groups would meet in between the plenary sessions to discuss several themes, among them the consolidation of peace, capacity building, human-centred development, infrastructure, private sector development and agricultural development.
The Japanese government, the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank are the main organisers of TICAD III.

29 september 2003 08:06:00




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