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For many ordinary Japanese, Africa is still a distant continent on the other side of the world. On Tuesday, the eve of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), “Bon for Africa,” a unique Bon Odori (folk dance) event was held in Yokohama. Visitors also enjoyed an African fashion show and other performances as well as African food stalls. The event was organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to raise interest in Africa and change people’s often negative images of the continent.

Though TICAD, launched by Japan in 1993, has often been criticized for not facilitating enough interaction with the private sector, this year’s three-day conference is expected to feature more involvement by the business community. While businesses representatives will take part in some of the TICAD’s official discussions, many seminars on issues surrounding Africa will be organized by the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

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