/

African nations assured of continued flow of aid

Kyodo

Japan told foreign ministers and senior officials from about 50 African countries on Sunday that it will continue to arrange for ¥3.2 trillion ($32 billion) in aid to flow into the continent over the five-year period ending in 2017.

With the public and private sectors acting in concert, Japan “will steadily implement the assistance it pledged” last year, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech to kick off a two-day meeting in Cameroon on a Japan-led initiative to promote development in Africa.

Under the program, Japan has provided patrol ships to Djibouti, built and serviced roads in West Africa and promoted exchanges of businesswomen between Japan and Africa.

Kishida said Japan will lend a further $300 million to the African Development Bank to nurture private-sector development in Africa as well.

“Japan sees Africa, a region with high economic growth, as a frontier of its diplomacy,” he said. “Japan aims to strengthen reciprocal economic relations with Africa through an expansion of trade and investment.”

The ¥3.2 trillion aid package was unveiled by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama last June. In January, Abe visited Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia, and vowed to continue supporting the development of the continent.

The Cameroon gathering, called the First TICAD V Ministerial Meeting, comes in the wake of a $20 billion Chinese aid pledge to Africa.

At the meeting, delegates from Africa and Japan were to discuss how to boost agricultural output, ensure food and nutrition security and empower women and youths, Japanese officials said.

Referring to the African Union’s designation of 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security for the continent, Kishida said Japan, as an international partner, supports Africa’s food-related initiatives.

The two sides were also expected to talk about improving the business climate in Africa because an increasing number of Japanese companies are showing an interest in doing business there.

Annual economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to accelerate to 5.5 percent in 2015 from around 5 percent in 2013. However, poverty and inequality remain high in many countries.

Promoting engagement with Africa is part of Abe’s policy of conducting “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”

“Peace, stability and prosperity in the world that Japan envisions will not be complete without Africa,” Kishida said. “We believe (Abe’s policy of) proactively contributing to peace based on the principle of international cooperation will serve to be a new bond between Japan and Africa.”