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Japan Announces African Development Summit - 2001-01-10

Japan's prime minister says his country will host a conference on African economic development. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori made the announcement on the second day of a three-day trip to South Africa. It is the first time a serving Japanese prime minister has visited sub-Saharan Africa.

It will be the third-time Japan has hosted talks on African development. Roughly 1,000 delegates from 81 countries attended the last Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held in October of 1998. The summit, known as TICAD, ended with an ambitious vow to cut African poverty in half by the year 2015.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori hopes TICAD-3 will build on the accomplishments of the previous two summits. He said Japan will hold ministerial-level talks in December to prepare for the conference.

Mr. Mori added the rest of the world would suffer if it neglects Africa's problems. He said development aid remains a key part of Japan's policy toward Africa, which receives almost $1 billion in aid money from Japan every year. The other elements, he said, are conflict resolution and support for refugees.

Mr. Mori spoke after meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki near Johannesburg. The visit is largely aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two nations.

President Mbeki says he briefed the Japanese leader on the special African development program he co-sponsors along with the leaders of Algeria and Nigeria.

In addition to development, analysts suspect the two leaders also discussed the composition of the U.N. Security Council. Both Japan and South Africa are lobbying for permanent seats on the council, hoping to shift the balance of power away from Western nations.

This is the first time a sitting Japanese prime minister has visited sub-Saharan Africa, although the continent receives roughly one-tenth of Japan's yearly budget for overseas development aid.

Mr. Mori leaves South Africa for Kenya on Wednesday for the second leg of his African trip. From there, he goes to Nigeria.