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Japan eyes better security in Africa to boost economic links

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Japan is seeking improved security in Africa to make it easier for Japanese companies to tap into the resource-rich continent with growth potential, as a three-day international conference on African development is set to begin Saturday in Yokohama.

Leaders and delegates from about 50 African countries are scheduled to participate in the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, with participants expected to adopt a declaration and action plans at the end of their talks.

The main topic at the TICAD summit will be "quality of growth" as Africa makes a transition from a continent plagued by constant poverty, hunger, conflicts and political instability to a land of growth. Japan also hopes to shift more from being just an aid donor to an economic and investment partner.

The conference, co-organized by the Japanese government and international organizations such as the United Nations and for the first time the African Union, will focus on three pillars -- building a strong and sustainable economy, creating inclusive and resilient societies in which people can share in the benefits of growth, and ensuring peace and security.

To keep the momentum going for African economies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce a series of support measures in an apparent bid to win the hearts of people in Africa and chase China in terms of the amount of aid and investment.

At the multilateral conference, security is set to be one of the highest priorities for Tokyo amid concerns following the hostage crisis in Algeria in January in which foreign nationals, including 10 Japanese, were killed.

Japanese government officials say Tokyo plans to assist African countries in tackling terrorism and piracy by dispatching patrol vessels and Self-Defense Forces personnel, catering to the needs of Japanese companies engaged in or looking to do business in Africa.

The latest round of TICAD comes when Africa has been in the spotlight as both the economy and population are likely to show continued and robust growth.

Still, the basic infrastructure on the continent is far from sufficient, and Japan will keep providing official development assistance to help build facilities such as roads and ports, according to the officials.

Given the importance of fostering human resources with expertise and knowledge, Japan also is likely to unveil a five-year plan that would include vocational training for students and training administrative officials in Africa to work as a bridge, particularly for Japanese firms.

During the three-day conference, a series of summit sessions will be held to discuss trade and investment, gender equality and the empowerment of women, and peace building, while numerous related events such as symposiums and a fair promoting products from Africa are scheduled on the sidelines.

The participants are also likely to discuss what lies ahead for the continent, especially after 2015 when the U.N. Millennium Development Goals -- targets to tackle eight areas such as poverty and hunger globally -- are supposed to be achieved.

The TICAD summit has been held every five years in Japan since its inception in 1993.

==Kyodo

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/130530/japan-eyes-better-security-africa-boost-economic-links