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Int'l conference on African development opens in Japan


YOKOHAMA, Japan, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Leaders and representatives from 52 African countries and development partners started their three-day discussions here Wednesday on a sustained growth and long-term development for the African continent.

They will focus their topics on boosting economic growth, ensuring human security and addressing environment and climate change issues in Africa at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) which opened at Japan's third largest city Yokohama Wednesday morning.

"What we are about to do now is to open a new stage, titled the" century of African growth," said Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in his opening speech at the meeting.

Fukuda said Africa will become a powerful engine "driving the growth of the world."

In a keynote speech, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania and Chaiperson of the African Union, called for more assistance for Africa's development.

Expressing welcome to Japan's aid for Africa, he urged the Asian donor to promise a balanced assistance to a broader range of countries in the continent.

On the climate change issue, Kikwete noted that "Africa, which contribute least to the global warming phenomenon, bears far more than its fair share of the direct and indirect consequences thereof."

He called for a practical mechanism to follow-on from the Kyoto Protocol and requested Japan to provide fund to address the issue.

Under the theme of "Toward a Vibrant Africa: A Continent of Hope and Opportunity", the conference is co-organized by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank.

Participants at the meeting are expected to work out the guiding principles and approaches to African development and a road-map for action-oriented initiatives with measurable targets.

The World Bank said African countries have achieved remarkable progress in recent years in economic growth and peace and stability through its own efforts and international cooperation, showing a promising a prosperous future.

However, the region is still facing a number of serious problems and challenges such as poverty, food shortages, infectious diseases that need to be addressed by the world community to ensure the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Developed partners are called for more assistance to the region. Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda pledged in his speech that over the next five years, Japan will proactively and flexibly provide up to4 billion dollars of soft loans as well as other aid to Africa.

As an interlink, the results from the meeting are expected to be fed into the G-8 summit to be held at Japan's Hokkaido on July 7-9.

Source: Xinhua

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