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African countries and their development partners pledged Wednesday to attempt to halve the extreme poverty on the continent and achieve universal elementary school education by 2015.To this end, Japan pledged 90 billion yen, mostly grants for educational and health facilities.”The ultimate objective of development is to improve the living conditions of every human being,” Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura reportedly said in announcing the aid, which will span the next five years, noting the assistance will allow 2 million African children to study in new schools and the lives of more than 15 million people to be uplifted through better medical services and cleaner water.The pledges to end poverty and boost education in Africa were among priorities outlined in the Tokyo Agenda for Action adopted at the second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD-II). “The primary theme of this agenda for action for African development is poverty reduction through accelerated economic growth and sustainable development, and effective integration of African economies into the global economy,” the plan states.Nations in Africa need more than 5 percent annual economic growth to effect a meaningful reduction in poverty, and they need further self-help efforts in their economic policies to achieve this goal, according to the agenda.The nations helping Africa to develop need to provide adequate levels of official development assistance, promote foreign direct investment, open markets to exports from the continent, seek lasting solutions to its external debt burden and facilitate technology transfers, it says.Komura said in a speech Wednesday, the final day of the three-day conference, that the gathering was significant because it clearly identified the challenges Africa faces and shed light on specific priorities for action to meet these challenges.The gathering was jointly hosted by Japan, the United Nations and the Global Coalition for Africa, an international nongovernmental organization that promotes dialogue involving developed and developing countries.

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