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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Africa ODA to be doubled: Fukuda


Staff writer

The government promised Tuesday to double its official development assistance to Africa to around ¥200 billion by 2012 on a disbursement basis.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda made the announcement, which comes ahead of the May 28-30 Tokyo International Conference on African Development, at a morning meeting of Cabinet ministers discussing overseas aid.

Fukuda will spell out details of the aid when he hosts next week's TICAD, which takes place in Yokohama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.

"The prime minister will discuss a lot in the first keynote speech" at the conference, Machimura said.

He also said the government will try to double Japan's direct investment in Africa during the same period from about ¥170 billion at present, using such measures as the government-backed trade insurance for private companies.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, the increase in ODA for Africa will not include debt waivers. The main chunk of the increase will be in the form of grants and yen loans, the official said.

In the past five years, Japan annually disbursed around ¥100 billion in ODA on average for African nations, excluding debt waivers. The Foreign Ministry has meanwhile been trying to increase African ODA.

Other countries, especially China, have been recently boosting ODA to African nations, many of which boast rich resources, including crude oil and rare metal reserves.

The Finance Ministry, however, has been reluctant to increase ODA as the government grapples with its increasing national debt.

Japan's overall net ODA in 2007 decreased 30.1 percent from the previous year, with the nation falling from the world's third-largest to fifth-largest donor — the lowest ranking since 1972. Japan was the world's No. 1 ODA donor between 1993 and 2000.

Using the ODA increase for Africa as momentum, the Foreign Ministry is now trying to boost the size of overall ODA as well.



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