- Within five years, Japan will double its aid to Africa, the country's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda disclosed.
Japan's current aid to Africa stands at US $1.7 billion, but Mr Fukuda said his government will gradually increase it year by year until it doubles in 2012.
Japan is also commiteed to doubling rice production in Africa to alleviate the global food crisis on the continent.
Addressing leaders from 52 African countries at the start of the fourth Tokoyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in the Japanese city of Yokohama, Mr Fukuda expressed his government's interest to strengthen bilateral and diplomatic ties with Africa.
Japan is keenly competing with China and India to gain influence on the resources-opulent but poverty-stricken continent. Japan is not only interested in accessing Africa's market and its natural resources, but it also wants to support the continent's development process.
Prime Minister Fukuda, who called on Africa to work together to combat climate change, promised to encourage Japanese firms to invest in Africa.
President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania exhorted the Japanese government to work much harder to persuade businessmen that Africa was a safe and viable place to invest.
"The perceived notion of risks about doing business with Africa or in Africa today is more a matter of the unforgotten past history than what is actually occurring on the ground in Africa today," Mr Kikwete, also the Chairman of the African Union, said.
President Kikwete welcomed Japan's pledge to double aid to Africa but callsed on Mr Fukuda to persuade leaders of the G8 group of leading economies to honour their commitments to the African continent.
The three-day conference, which ends on Friday, will allow Japan and African leaders to discuss issues on economic growth, cooperation, democratisation and the environment. The previous conference was held in 2003.
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