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Ambassadors from five African nations said Tuesday that their continent’s image and perception in Japan is too negative and that mutual understanding about Africa is needed at a grassroots level.

The ambassadors made the remarks during a visit to The Japan Times.

Tunisian Ambassador Salah Hannachi said that the image of Africa in Japan is almost that of a single country characterized by poverty and conflict. But more than 20 countries on the continent have achieved economic growth above 5 percent recently and per capita income as a whole has risen as economic growth surpassed demographic growth, he said.

Hannachi noted that debt still hampers Africa, with interest rates determined solely by advanced nations.

Togbi Kporku III of Ghana, contended that people outside of Africa tend to ignore the achievements of each African country. The impression is that Africa has not advanced, and that official development assistance is a waste of time and money.

Vincent Boule of Gabon said the current relationship between Japan and African nations is unhealthy because of the difference in wealth. He urged that more mutually dependent relationships develop both economically and culturally.

Aladji Amadou Thiam of Senegal said that investment in Africa, which garners only 2 percent of the world’s investment flow, is too small compared to the region’s population of 500 million. He warned that the amount is in danger of further decrease, reflecting geopolitical changes since the end of the Cold War such as investment in former communist countries, and the formation of the European Union and North American Free Trade Agreement.

Esther Mahai Tolle of Kenya urged the Japanese media to highlight the diversity of the continent to provide useful information to possible investors.

Asked about last year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Thiam remarked that it has already bore fruit with a visit from former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to Kenya and South Africa, and a planned African Trade Fair later this year in Tokyo sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization.

The member countries of Organization of African Unity, including the five countries, will hold a series of events to celebrate Africa Day on May 25 in Tokyo.

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