Japan's premier Fukuda begins marathon talks with African leaders
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Tuesday began bilateral meetings with leaders of African nations who arrived in Tokyo ahead of a three-day conference on African development to open Wednesday, dpa reported.
Fukuda was expected to express Japan's willingness to contribute to African development at a 15-minute meeting with 40 leaders to run through the Fourth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama.
At TICAD, Fukuda would announce a plan to double official development aid (ODA) to Africa by 2012 and to increase private investment in the region.
Japan's aid to the African region fell by 30 per cent in 2007 and Tokyo is struggling to maintain its influence in Africa in the face of rapidly expanding aid and investment in the resource-rich continent from emerging donors, especially China.
"African development is a key issue also at the Group of Eight summit and we hope this (TICAD) will be a good opportunity for Japan and Africa to be able to work together in the same direction," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Participating leaders were to issue three documents to set a general direction of aid to Africa, concrete action plans for the next five years and a follow-up mechanism to monitor the progress of the aid.
Fukuda also intends to ask African leaders support for Japan's bid for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council and the Japan-proposed climate initiative to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Japan's aid would improve infrastructure, healthcare and education, and to boost agricultural productivity in Africa.
Fukuda was also to meet with rock star Bono of U2, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai and World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Thursday.