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Friday, May 30, 2008

Africa, Japan pledge to tackle food crisis

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
YOKOHAMA, Japan - African leaders, Japan and development organizations agreed Friday that there is an urgent need to boost agricultural productivity in Africa and pledged to tackle the widespread impact of soaring food prices.

Participants closing a three-day African development conference said they aim to double rice production in Africa in 10 years and expand irrigated land by 20 per cent in five years.

They called for more research into drought-resistant crops and for Africa to tap into the agricultural prowess of countries like Japan.

African leaders said they welcomed Japan's plan to establish a $10 billion program to help developing countries modernize their industries and address climate change.

Participants outlined three priority areas for the next five years: stimulating economic growth, ensuring "human security" and addressing environmental issues.

They promised to improve roads and power facilities, promote private-sector trade and investment, expand health care and education, and develop an effective framework beyond 2012 on climate change.

"The Conference took place against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Africa determined to take responsibility for and to assert ownership over its own destiny: and an Africa increasingly confident and capable, itself, of determining that destiny," they said in a joint declaration.

The parties praised Africa's increasing political stability, improved governance, strong economic growth of 5 per cent a year and rising levels of foreign direct investment.

Still, they recognized that the continent faces serious hurdles such as "widespread poverty and unemployment in rural and urban areas coupled with rapid population growth."

The parties urged the Group of Eight nations, whose leaders will convene in northern Japan in July, to honor their previous commitments to Africa and strengthen coordination with the continent.

Hosted by Japan, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD, began in 1993 and has been held every five years since then. This week's gathering was its largest yet, drawing some 2,500 delegates from 50 African countries, international organizations and other governments.

© The Canadian Press, 2008

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