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Japan's PM Impresses Ghanaian Hosts

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has impressed and encouraged his Ghanaian hosts during a three-day stopover, the first such visit by a Japanese leader.

Editorials in Ghana's newspapers gushed about Japan's prime minister, saying he was a symbol of his country's discipline and self-reliance.

President John Kufuor said he was determined to turn Ghana into what he called one of the little economic tigers of the emerging world, a reference to Asia's Japan-led economic boom following World War II.

Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister tells VOA Ghanaians felt very privileged Mr. Koizumi chose Ghana as the second of two African stops, after a brief visit to Ethiopia.

He said he takes it as an endorsement of the path Ghana is following.

"In so far as its the first time a Japanese leader has been to our country in 49 years of our independence, it is very significant," said Addo. "It is obviously one of the richest countries in the world, one of the most powerful economies, and if that country has selected us as one of its key partners in Africa, obviously over a time, over a period, benefit will come to our country. We believe that the Japanese have seen in Ghana a country that is on the right path to development and wants to give symbolically as much support to that process as it can. I think there can be no greater symbol of a nations investment than a visit by their leader."

The minister also says Ghana has much to learn from Japan's example.

"I think for me the most interesting part is how a society can overcome problems of poverty and still remain true to its own culture, its own identity and its own way of doing things," continued Addo. "And that there are several ways to progress and you don't necessarily have to ape. You have to maybe follow certain fundamentals in the way in which your economy can rise and progress but nevertheless you can do it in a context in which the majority of your people can feel free."

During his trip, Mr. Koizumi turned major loans into a road construction grant, and also announced the creation of an international prize for medical research and care in Africa.

It will be named after Shideyo Noguchi, a Japanese scientist who died from malaria in Ghana during the 1920s while researching yellow fever.

The visit closely follows an African tour by Chinese President Hu Jintao, which was dominated more by oil interests. After slowing down aid to Africa in the past five years, Japan's government recently said it would double development assistance over the next three years.

This comes as Japan is also seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, which African countries would also like to see expanded and reformed.