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Citing a first-century Roman writer who depicted Africans as strange, monstrous creatures, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said that almost 2,000 years later, the world still has not shed this view.

“We have not traveled very far with regard to the frightening images of savagery that attend the continent of Africa,” he said in a speech delivered at the United Nations University in Tokyo on Thursday.

Mbeki called on Japan to lead the way in enabling the world to overcome these widely held views of Africa. Once the view that the African situation is hopeless is overcome, an “African renaissance” can take place that “addresses not only the improvement of the living conditions of African peoples, but also the extension of the frontiers of human dignity.”

The South African leader arrived in Japan this week to meet with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi as well as other political and business leaders to discuss areas of cooperation between South Africa and Japan.

One decision reached was the creation of a “Japan-South Africa Partnership Forum” of the foreign ministers of both countries for continued cooperation. As a result of the meeting, which Mbeki said was relaxed and open, “there will be a much more dynamic interaction between us,” he said.

Mbeki praised Japan for being willing to maintain development assistance to African countries to which Western nations are reducing aid. Another key to Africa’s development, he said, will be more generous trade policies that “should ensure easier access of African products into (developed) markets.”

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