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Africa making strides but still in need of help

by Setsuko Kamiya and Jun Hongo

African leaders said Wednesday that while their nations have a responsibility to fight poverty and improve the living conditions of millions on the continent, its partners, including Japan and other affluent nations, must also lend a hand.

During the afternoon session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the leaders also pointed out that establishing and securing peace in troubled areas was crucial for development. The session centered on progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals adopted at the U.N. in 2000.

The global community agreed to make a collective push to rectify chronic problems ranging from dire poverty and hunger to child mortality and HIV/AIDS by 2015.

“It is true that Africa has seen growth since the beginning of the millennium,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday. “But in spite of these successes and progress, Africa as a continent is far from achieving the MDG.”

Noting soaring food prices are hampering progress, Gheit urged enhanced economic partnership between Africa and Japan in food security.

The delegates also urged developed countries to provide assistance in curbing the impact of global warming in Africa, calling climate change a “grave issue on the continent.”

Global warming “has taken its toll,” causing droughts, erosion and a rise in the sea level, James Alix Michel, president of the Seychelles, told the conference.

Material and financial assistance from industrialized nations is necessary to halt the trend, he said, noting his country looks to Japan as “one of the key partners” in combating global warming.

The Group of Eight nations should “make available the means and support” to help create sustainable energy in Africa, Michel said.

A delegate from Niger said the continent’s desertification and drastic weather pattern changes are also impacting the people.