LIBERIA: Japan Pledges US$83.4mn Assistance to Sahel Region

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that Japan is preparing a US$83.4 million humanitarian assistance package to stabilize West Africa’s Sahel region, spur economic growth and promote more Japanese investment.

According to an Executive Mansion dispatch, Prime Minister Abe made the commitment at a State Dinner hosted by President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), following a meeting with Heads of State and Government of the regional organization in Abidjan on Friday, January 10.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf joined 12 of her West African colleagues for a two-day mini-Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government with Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

During her stay in Abidjan, she held discussions with the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, as well as closed-door discussions with President Ouattara and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé.

The President also met with the leadership of the Liberian community in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Japanese Prime Minister is on a week-long first visit to Africa, which includes stops in Mozambique and Ethiopia.

His visit is expected to further enhance Japan’s economic ties with Africa, including business relations, while also highlighting Japan’s efforts toward international peace.

“Solidarity gives strength. It’s simple but a strong message which ECOWAS is conveying to the world. The efforts that you have expended to stabilize the Sahel region lead to respect,” Prime Minister Abe told the ECOWAS leaders at the State Dinner.

He added: “Japan wants to support you. That is why we are preparing aUS$83.4 million assistance in favor of the Sahel region.”

Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Africa follows the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), held in Yokohama, Japan, in June 2013, which was attended by nearly 40 African Heads of State and Government.

At that meeting, Japan discussed, among other issues, trade and investment, peace and stability in Africa.

Japan also pledged a US$14.4 billion aid package over the next five years, as part of a broader envelope of US$32.8 billion in private sector investment.

Mr. Abe’s visit was the first by a Japanese Head of Government to Africa in the past eight years. In 2006, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Ethiopia and Ghana.

Welcoming Prime Minister Abe to Côte d’Ivoire and the region – the first such visit by a Japanese Head of Government to his country – Ivorian President Ouattara termed the visit a milestone in the relations between the two countries and the region.

“Your presence is a testimony to our common desire to continue the development of our States and collectively ensure the well-being of our people,” President Ouattara said, adding that beyond la Côte d’Ivoire, ECOWAS and its people welcomed him in a context of deepening economic integration.

President Ouattara indicated that the dynamism of the region calls for the strengthening of its strategic partnership with Japan in various spheres, including infrastructure, safety, new technologies and the involvement of the Japanese private sector.

“In a world where regional groupings reassure the people and strengthen the bonds of solidarity between nations, Japan and the ECOWAS countries have in common the goal of building a peaceful world, based on a representative global governance of our time,” the ECOWAS Chairman told the visiting Japanese Premier.

He reiterated the call of ECOWAS Member States to reform and expand the United Nations Security Council and to ensure that Africa is represented among the permanent members.

Speaking earlier with ECOWAS leaders, Prime Minister Abe said his country would partner with them to promote peace and security in the region, which would spur economic activities and boost development.

The need to promote peace and security in West Africa had become crucial due to its strategic place in the global economy, he said, and indicated that Japan, as a long-standing friend to many countries in the region, would continue to engage in issues to promote economic development.

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