YOKOHAMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Sunday to provide ¥100 billion in humanitarian and development assistance over five years to help stabilize Africa’s conflict-torn Sahel region.
“The key to realizing peace and stability is the effort and will of Africa itself to solve conflicts. Japan wants to support Africa’s will through human resource development and by enhancing its social systems,” Abe told a session of the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama.
The ¥100 billion aid package, which is part of the ¥3.2 trillion in funding from Japan announced Saturday, is to be used for strengthening social systems such as education, health and food, Abe said.
Japan will also train 2,000 Africans in security measures, including counterterrorism, he added.
A Foreign Ministry official said the African experts to be trained will include border patrol agents, police officers and justice officials.
The plan includes reinforcing security for Japanese workers by enhancing dialogue with countries in the Sahel region and northern Africa, where 10 Japanese were killed after terrorists stormed an Algerian natural gas plant in January.
“The hostage crisis in Algeria came as a huge shock for Japanese,” Abe said. “Through the incident, Japan reconfirmed that regional stability in northern African and Sahel, which is the entrance to sub-Saharan Africa, is a must for prosperity.”
Much of the three-hour session was spent discussing the ongoing conflict in Mali. The country’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, called for further international support to bring stability.
“Following the Arab Spring in Libya, Mali’s situation has worsened. Hundreds of thousands of people have become refugees inside and outside the country. Citizens were raped, mentally tortured and physically abused,” Traore told the session.
Calling for the creation of a subregional military to combat terrorism and drug and weapons trafficking, among other threats, he stressed that “peace is the foundation of every development.”
While the primary concern of many African leaders at TICAD is to bring peace and stability to countries still torn by civil war and ethnic violence, others presiding over booming economies are more worried about what steps need to be taken to ensure that the gains of the past few years are not reversed.
“Africa is the engine of growth of the future,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim noted Saturday. “But with its population growth, rapid urbanization and environmental pressures, it is also extremely vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and climate change. Future-proofing African development by building resilience will determine how successful we are at ending extreme poverty and creating shared prosperity.”
At a session focusing on the role of the private sector, Kim pointed out that sub-Saharan Africa grew by about 4.7 percent in 2012 and that World Bank projections show it will expand at a 5.5 percent pace this year.
While acknowledging that foreign official development assistance can play an important role in promoting economic prosperity, Kim said the private sector’s importance is growing exponentially.
“With $50 billion in private flows going into Africa, private flows are already more than ODA,” he said. “Public-private partnerships are going to become much more important and there is a need to focus on sectors besides the (mineral and resource) extraction sectors.”
As African economies grow, human resources training and job creation must be attained or the political strife that still scars many countries could return to now-stable areas, the World Bank chief said.
In the afternoon session, African leaders again stressed the importance of achieving peace and stability on the continent. Many of those from, or in the same area, as states at war or in conflict fear that all the rosy talk about Africa’s economic performance and potential will result in less money for peace efforts.
They called for international aid and humanitarian support in post-conflict areas, according to Foreign Ministry officials.
The delegates also addressed the growing issue of youth unemployment, citing it as an urgent problem because it leads to social instability. With more young Africans from rural areas seeking better jobs in the cities, there is also growing recognition that the problem extends beyond the countryside.
Participants stressed the importance of education and good governance. Empowering women in African societies, long a concern within and without Africa, was also noted as an important goal.
Japan TV format backed
Botswana informed Japan on Sunday it intends to help expand Japan’s terrestrial digital TV broadcasting format in Africa, saying it has found the standard technically superior, the Foreign Ministry said.
During a meeting with President Ian Khama during the aid conference going on in Yokohama, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thanked Botswana for becoming the first African country to adopt the Japanese format.
Abe promised to dispatch experts to the nation in southern Africa and extend other forms of technical assistance.
Japan will also help develop African personnel through a center in Botswana where mineral exploration and technical training for geologists are conducted.
In a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Abe said he intends to further strengthen ties between the two countries through Japan’s continued assistance for Rwanda’s economic and social development.
Kagame thanked Abe for Japan’s development assistance, saying it has helped quicken the pace of progress and invited him to visit Rwanda, according to the ministry.