Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 20, May 2010
Africa, Japan to jointly tackle socio-economic challenges

Africa and Japan have agreed on a roadmap to implement joint initiatives aimed at strengthening relations and addressing socio-economic challenges facing the continent.

The roadmap that was adopted at the second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) ministerial follow-up meeting focuses on climate change, agriculture and infrastructure development.

Another key area for cooperation is the implementation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015.

Under infrastructure, Japan pledged to avail a total of US$2 billion over the next two years to finance developments in the sector.

The loan is to be released under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa and is to fund critical projects that include road networks and electricity grids.

With regard to climate change, Africa and Japan agreed to closely work together towards the success of the Conference of Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for December 2010 in Cancun, Mexico.

"We recognise the necessity for agreement to be reached on ambitious targets and actions and agree that Japan and African countries strengthen their dialogue in subsequent international negotiations," a statement released after the meeting said.

Japan said it would also continue to support climate change projects in Africa through the Hatoyama Initiative, which is already underway.

The Hatoyama Initiative mainly focuses on adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change, including strengthening national and regional capacity to cope with natural hazards associated with climate change, and for renewable energy as a mitigation measure.

Japan further announced that it would convene a ministerial meeting on forest conservation cooperation and climate change to discuss, among other issues, ways on how to manage the environment. The meeting is scheduled for October.

On the cooperation to achieve the MDGs by 2015, Japan pledged to set up a fund valued at about US$1 billion beginning this year to help African countries meet their targets.

Africa also made a commitment to demonstrate political will to speed up the implementation of MDGs, especially those that are still lagging behind and ensure that any progress which has been made over the past is not reversed.

Africa and Japan said they would "encourage the High-Level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs in September to determine a global strategy and specific actions to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

"The success of such an approach, as an indispensable component for attaining the MDGs, should be duly reflected in the outcome document of the High-level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs."

Under trade and agriculture, Africa and Japan said they would "redouble their efforts in these areas, while taking note of the significant progress that has already been made," adding that improvement in these sectors would alleviate poverty and promote sustainable economic growth and create employment.

Speaking at the meeting, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said he was confident that Africa and Japan would fulfil their pledges and cement the cordial relations that already exist between them.

He added that it was also pleasing to note that Japan has honoured pledges made at the TICAD IV Summit to increase its ODA to Africa, especially in the infrastructure and human development sectors.

"The goals which were announced by the Government of Japan at the TICAD IV Summit in Yokohama have been achieved faster than expected for the second year of its follow-up process," he said.

Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Katsuya Okada said his country will continue to cooperate with Africa in various areas.

He said in the last two years the amount of Japanís ODA has averaged US$ 1.7 billion, nearly reaching the pledged US$ 1.8 billion target.

"The provision of 45 percent of our pledged US$4 billion ODA loan target has also been committed," he said.

"As for the accelerated implementation of approximately US$2 billion of grant aid and technical cooperation pledged last year in Gaborone, about US$ 1.8 billion has been committed."

The second TICAD ministerial follow-up meeting was held on 2-3 May in Tanzania to review progress on the implementation of the Yokohama Action Plan issued at the fourth TICAD Summit held in Yokohama, Japan in 2008.

The Yokohama Action Plan outlines measures to be implemented through the TICAD process during the next five years. The first action plan review was made last year in Gaborone, Botswana at the first TICAD ministerial follow-up meeting.

TICAD is a major global framework for Asia and Africa to collaborate in promoting Africa's development. It was launched in 1993 with the first meeting held in Tokyo.

TICAD also enjoys the joint support of other cooperating partners such as the United Nations and the World Bank.

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