Japan offers 500 mln dlrs in new aid, mainly for Africa

 Japan offers 500 mln dlrs in new aid, mainly for Africa

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone announced 500 million dollars in new aid largely for Africa, on top of an earlier pledge to double Tokyo's assistance to the continent.

Speaking at the start of a development conference in Botswana's capital, he said Japan would give 300 million dollars for mainly food assistance to help Africa withstand the effects of the global economic downturn."For the most part, this aid is intended to provide food assistance to expand social safety nets and to enhance agricultural productivity," Nakasone said.

The countries receiving the food aid are Burkina Faso, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Republic of Congo, Senegal and Togo.

Tokyo will give another 200 million dollars to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, he added.

About 500 delegates representing countries, international agencies and charities attended the two-day conference to follow up on Japan's promise to double aid to Africa by 2012 -- from about 900 million dollars a year to an annual 1.8 billion dollars.

Nakasone took pains to insist that Japan would not back down from its promised aid, even though its economy has slipped into its worst recession in decades.

"I would like to state once again that Japan is determined to carry out its commitments," he told the conference.

"The global financial and economic crisis that has arisen since this past autumn can be expected to impact the countries of Africa for at least two years to come," he said.

"What is now of the greatest concern is that there is a possibility that Africa will be profoundly affected by this crisis," he said, with a slowdown in the continent's economic growth and delays in achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals to fight poverty and improve quality of life for the world's poor.

For Japan, the new aid scheme also addresses growing alarm in Tokyo as emerging economies, particularly China, seal business deals and political alliances on the African continent.

Japan also used its original African aid summit in May, when the package was announced, to lobby for one of its top foreign policy goals -- securing a permanent seat at the UN Security Council -- which has been blocked under pressure from China.

Nakasone also said that Japan would urge leaders of the Group of 20 nations who are gathering in London on April 2, to include African voices in their discussions on how to deal with the global crisis.



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