Taiwan says it regrets that the "one China" policy insisted on by Beijing prevents it from providing much needed development aid to most countries in Africa.
Taiwan was in a relatively good diplomatic position in Africa several years ago. Taiwan’s Deputy Secretary-General for International Cooperation and Development, Pai-po Lee, says this made it possible for those countries that had diplomatic relations with Taiwan to benefit from his agency’s aid projects.
“Previously, we have over nine countries with Taiwan. For instance, Senegal, the Gambia, Chad, Niger, Liberia, Central Africa — also Sao Tome Principe… Six years ago, they still have relations with Taiwan. But, then they shifted to China,” said Pai-po Lee.
Lee says Taiwan had invested a lot in the African region. But, all that is now in the past. He says Taiwan currently maintains diplomatic relations with only two countries — Burkina Faso and Swaziland.
He says Taiwan has been running productive agricultural and livestock, as well as vocational and medical programs in Swaziland since 1975.
As for Burkina Faso, he says a successful irrigation project on the Kou River, which was started in 1967, ended in 1973. That was when Burkina Faso broke off relations with Taiwan in favor of China.
But Lee tells VOA Burkina Faso restored ties with Taiwan in 1994. He suggests the lure of billions of dollars in Chinese aid was not strong enough to keep this impoverished country within Beijing’s diplomatic orbit.
“It is… coming from the Burkina Faso people. To think about the 1967 in Kou River, this 1967. They had quite a good memory of that… So, the people urged the government to restore the relations with Taiwan. So, that pressure comes from the people,” said Lee.
Since resuming development work in Burkina Faso, the Taiwanese development official says the country’s irrigation system has been expanded. He says a program is ongoing to train local nurses and medical doctors and an infant and maternal health program is having great success in reducing both maternal and infant deaths.
This story was written by VOA's Lisa Schlein