- Senegal lauds Japan's spirit of partnership with Africa while more Japanese volunteers take up their duties in Dakar. In Senegal, one already speaks of a concrete expression of a "strengthened Dakar-Tokyo axis."
Joining a growing army of compatriots active in Africa, 21 new Japanese volunteers officially took up their duties in Dakar, Senegal, on 23 May. Like some 500 other Japanese youths already working in agriculture, health, education and related development activities in Senegal, they are a concrete expression of a "strengthened Dakar-Tokyo axis," Senegal's Director of Technical Cooperation Pape Birama Thiam said during the ceremony.
This Dakar-Tokyo relationship, said Mr Thiam, is a reflection of Japan's support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the continental development strategy adopted by African leaders in 2001.
Mr Konishi Kiyofumi, resident representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), made the same point, noting that Japan's assistance to Senegal is part of a broader orientation towards Africa which focuses on meeting basic human needs, following the approach mapped out at the 1998 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
- Now that NEPAD has been widely adopted, said Mr Kiyofumi, "the basic policy of Japan will be to expand its partnership with Africa, to support NEPAD within the framework of the TICAD process and to open a new chapter in the history of relations between Africa and Asia."
Raising Africa's profile
The third TICAD conference - a decade after the first one in 1993 - will take place in Tokyo from 29 September to 1 October. Co-sponsored by the government of Japan, the UN and the World Bank, it will draw delegations from virtually every African country, African regional organisations, much of Asia, the major donor countries and key international aid and development institutions.
It comes at a time when much of the international community's attention is focused on crises in other parts of the world, and is aimed at raising Africa's profile on the global agenda.
- There will be no stability and prosperity in the world in the 21st century unless the problems of Africa are resolved, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi emphasised during a 12-14 May visit to Tokyo by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. Both NEPAD and TICAD featured prominently in the discussions between the two leaders, and President Wade praised Japan for its lasting partnership with Africa.
During the second conference in October 1998, Prime Minister Koizumi noted, Japan pledged to provide Africa with the equivalent of US$ 750 million over a five-year period, specifically for helping meet basic human needs. Of that amount, nearly US$ 700 million has already been disbursed. This has been only one component of Japanese assistance to sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, which totalled US$ 932 million in 2000 alone, making Japan the region's fourth largest donor, after France, the UK and the US.
Roads and rice
The Japanese prime minister, in accord with NEPAD's priorities, emphasised the importance of infrastructure, declaring that this year Japan will begin providing about US$ 1 billion in aid to help develop Africa's roads, railways, ports, electricity systems and information and communications networks. Mr Koizumi added that he considers it "very important for Africa to raise agricultural productivity and to extricate itself from reliance on imported food."
Toward that end, Japan will continue to support the development and dissemination of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), a hardy, high-output cross between an African and an Asian rice strain. And to combat the immediate threat of famine, it will also provide US$ 55 million in additional food aid.
Beyond aid, Mr Koizumi went on, Japan would cancel up to US$ 3 billion in aid-related debt owed to Japan by African countries. And to facilitate investment by Japanese companies in Africa, the government will provide up to US$ 300 million in overseas investment loans.
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