G20: Japan Carries African Concerns To London

  • by Ramesh Jaura (berlin)
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

This is the crux of a message Prime Minister Taro Aso is carrying to the G20 summit in London Thursday, Japan's ambassador Takahiro Shinyo to Germany told German parliamentarians last week.

Aso will be carrying the message on behalf of African countries whose ministers met with a high-level delegation led by Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone Mar. 21-22 in Gaborone, capital of Botswana.

The conference was the first ministerial meeting to follow up on the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) last May in Japan.

The participants noted that the global financial crisis was impacting Africa, a view that had been articulated by African heads of state and government at the 12th summit of the African Union (AU) last month, and encapsulated in the Addis Ababa declaration on the financial crisis.

The declaration focused on the need for the international community to assist Africa's own efforts to mitigate the impact of the crisis, in terms of both practical measures and broader policy issues.

Similar calls have been issued by the African Development Bank, the Committee of African Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, and the African Progress Panel chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in the run-up to the London summit Thursday of 20 leaders from industrial and developing countries.

They represent 90 percent of global GNP (gross national product), 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of the world's population.

The message with which the Japanese prime minister has been entrusted says that African countries are deeply concerned over 'the serious negative impact on Africa of the current global financial and economic crisis, including the decline in commodity prices, weakened import demand, aggravation of fiscal conditions, and marked reduction of private capital inflows, foreign direct investment, and remittances.'

But they share 'a strong determination not to let this economic slowdown prove detrimental to Africa, and stress the need for increased efforts by both African countries and development partners, aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.'

Referring to the Gaborone communiqué, the message says: 'The participants (in the TICAD IV ministerial follow-up meeting) shared the conviction that it was time for closer synergy and coordination between and amongst African countries and their various development partners, in terms of policy development and the optimum use of financial resources, so as to ensure a sustainable economic growth trajectory across the continent.'

In this context, they stress the crucial importance for all development partners to honour the steady and effective implementation of all existing commitments.

The African countries also strongly plead for global initiatives 'to reactivate financial flows to Africa - including ODA (official development assistance) grants, concessional loans, lines of credit and additional instruments.' In this context, African countries welcomed the vulnerability framework, as proposed by the World Bank, and other measures announced by the African Development Bank. They strongly urged the London summit to endorse and support such initiatives that include safety-net programmes targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable on the continent.

The Gaborone gathering commended the efforts of the G20 to propose measures to address the global financial and economic crisis and take steps to accelerate recovery, including through the concerted implementation of stimulus packages and the establishment of appropriate facilities aimed at supporting restructuring efforts and improving economic resilience.

It emphasised that 'measures to address the crisis should be informed by African voices, concerns and needs,' and underscored that African countries had an important role to play in contributing to global economic recovery.

They also observed that this is an opportune time to put in place a new Bretton Woods system that reflects the current global realities in the 21st century.

With a view to reaffirming its commitment to Africa, Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone has announced 500 million dollars in new aid largely for Africa, on top of last May's pledge to double Tokyo's assistance to the continent.

Japan will also provide 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 told African ministers.

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

Japan will give an additional 200 million dollars to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, he added.

Some 500 delegates representing countries, international agencies and non- governmental organisations 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 MDGs to fight poverty and improve quality of life for the world's poor.

Japan is not alone championing the cause of Africa. Britain has pledged that poor countries will have their voices heard, and insists their problems need to be addressed at the G20 summit. Britain's commitment is particularly focused on Africa.

Lord Malloch-Brown, British Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, and minister for the G20, has warned that 'without addressing issues facing Africa, and allow African voices to be heard, the G20 will fail morally.'

The London summit will be attended by the heads of government or state of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

To ensure a balanced regional representation the Chair of The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the President of the EU Commission are also invited.

In addition, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has invited the heads of key international institutions including the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon), the World Bank (Robert Zoellick), the International Monetary Fund (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), the World Trade Organisation (Pascal Lamy) and the Financial Stability Forum (Prof. Mario Draghi).

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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