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Disaster-hit Japan will not cut aid to Africa: spokesman

by Staff Writers
Dakar (AFP) May 1, 2011
Tokyo will maintain all development aid to Africa despite pressing reconstruction costs at home, a Japanese government spokesman said Sunday at a development meeting with African ministers in Dakar.

Satoru Satoh said despite initial plans to cut back on foreign assistance, his country was "deeply touched" by an outpouring of support from African countries and had decided to maintain its commitments.

"After the earthquake and tsunami we had received a lot of warm and heart-felt sympathy and support from all over the world, including Africa. We used to support African development and this time Africa supported us," he said.

Many African countries sent donations to Japan, such as Algeria, Gabon, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Niger, Senegal, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo while South Africa sent rescue teams.

"In spite of the disaster Japan is committed to continue our contribution to the international community" and its contribution to peace, prosperity and development in Africa, Satoh said.

Under the Yokohama Action Plan, Japan had promised to double total development aid to Africa to $1.8 billion (1.2 billion euros) by 2012, however this was already exceeded in 2009 with $2.05 billion disbursed on the continent.

Japan also aimed to provide support to double Japan's private investment in Africa up to $3.4 billion in 2012, double rice production on the continent in a decade and spend some $10 billion in five years to fight climate change.

Over 32 ministers and other high-ranking government officials from 51 African countries are attending theDakar meeting, a follow-up to the five-yearly Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), last held in 2008.

Less than wo months after one of the most powerful earthquakes in history hit Japan on March 11, triggering a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster, Tokyo decided not to cancel the TICAD meeting in a bid to show the world that it is open for business.

Over 13,000 were killed and 14,000 remain unaccounted for after the disasters.

Japan's parliament is currently considering an extra budget of $49 billion to fund reconstruction after the disasters.

Senegal's Prime Minister Souleymane Ndiaye said the decision to continue the two-day TICAD meeting showed Japan's "strong determination to abide by its commitments to Africa."

African ministers are expected to review progress made with the Yokohama Action Plan and discuss challenges to the continent's growth, peace and security issues and climate change.

Japan has contributed funds to the building of nine trans-African highways, has projects to increase rice production across the continent, is constructing classrooms and training teachers and improving hospitals and health centres on the continent.

The continent is recovering well from the global financial crisis, with growth likely to reach 5.2 percent in 2011, however high food and oil prices and political instability in parts of the continent threaten to derail progress.

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