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2ND LD: Africa, donors commit to fight food crisis, 5-yr development plan+
[May 30, 2008]

2ND LD: Africa, donors commit to fight food crisis, 5-yr development plan+


(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) YOKOHAMA, May 30_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: ADDING DETAILS)

African leaders and their development partners called for "special attention" on Friday to the threats to food security, health and poverty by soaring global food prices in the continent, and agreed to immediately address hunger as well as increase food supplies over the long term.



In concluding a three-day development conference in Yokohama, the parties agreed that Africa should aim to double rice production in a decade and to expand irrigated land by 20 percent in five years with assistance from Japan and others to improve agricultural productivity and overcome the food crisis.

The participants at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development also noted that it would be a "difficult task" for Africa to achieve an eight-point set of U.N. Millennium Development Goals by 2015 amid serious challenges such as the impact from changes in the climate, the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and inadequate education.


Urging the Group of Eight nations to honor their commitments to African development, they also agreed on the need to assist Africa in mitigating and adapting to the negative effects of climate change and to support the continent's active participation in the making of a post-2012 global framework on emissions cuts.

"I will ensure that the voices of participating African leaders I have heard here as TICAD chairman, on climate change, rising food prices and other issues, be reflected at the Food and Agriculture Organization's high-level food security conference in June and the Group of Eight summit in Lake Toya in July," Fukuda said at a joint news conference.

The food crisis was a central issue throughout the TICAD discussions since Wednesday, as Africa is considered the continent hardest hit by it.

In the Yokohama Declaration adopted at the closing of the conference, TICAD participants said they "paid special attention to the issue of soaring food prices and its negative impact on poverty reduction in Africa."

To mitigate the problem, Japan and other development partners offered in a separate Yokohama Action Plan and its appendix to assist in immediate interventions, such as a rapid increase in the supply of food staples, and medium to long-term measures to enhance Africa's food production capacity.

The declaration and action plan also detailed other commitments over the next five years by the 51 participating African countries as well as donors and international organizations to transform Africa into a "continent of hope and opportunity" by boosting economic growth, ensuring human security and addressing environmental issues.

"Africa made its case during this meeting," said Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, who is also chairman of the African Union. "We heard very strong voices at this meeting championing not just for increased aid, but also for increased trade and investment and for more private sector participation."

The participants reaffirmed their commitments to tackle serious health challenges such as the prevalence of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malnutrition, as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates, all of which constitute serious constraints to social and economic development.

Progress will be monitored through a three-tier follow-up mechanism, under which the participants agreed to produce an annual progress report. The action plan's appendix, which lists proposed measures and possible contributions by implementing partners, will serve as a yardstick for the review, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

"We believe that this time we really have a way forward and we have charted that out," U.N. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro said, hailing the TICAD process as having finally matured in its 15th year with the action plan and monitoring mechanism.

Similarly, World Bank Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili said, "We must come to TICAD 5 with the scorecard of activities that have happened during the period,"

Japan, as host of the conference, offered to provide grants and technical assistance of 44 billion yen for education, 43 billion yen for health, 37 billion yen for infrastructure, 30 billion yen for water and sanitation, and 26 billion yen for agriculture over the course of the next five years.

At the opening of the conference, Fukuda also promised to double Japan's aid and private investment to Africa by 2012, including $4 billion of low-interest loans with a special focus on agriculture and infrastructure.

Japan, struggling to maintain its influence in Africa in the face of expanding aid and investments from China and other rivals, hopes the conference and marathon one-on-one talks between Fukuda and 40 African leaders on the sidelines would help it win more access to the continent's raw materials and support toward Japan's diplomatic agendas.

Tokyo seized the opportunity at TICAD to push for its initiative to halve global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and a $10 billion partnership program to help developing nations tackle climate change. The former was welcomed by TICAD participants, and African countries expressed appreciation to the latter in the declaration.

The participants stressed that African countries, which emit the least and embrace the Congo Basin -- the world's second largest ecological "lung," need to be provided with more relief from its vulnerability to impacts such as more frequent and intense droughts and floods.

The TICAD conference, co-organized by Japan, the United Nations, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank, saw its largest attendance of some 2,500 delegates since it was initiated in 1993. It is held once every five years.

Copyright ? 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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