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In recent years, Africa has been drawing the attention of the international community as a �continent of hope� reflecting its boosting economic growth. In 2009, however, there were concerns about economic slowdown due to the global economic and financial crises making more difficult for Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While some parts of the region have witnessed advances toward peace and stability, peace processes in Somalia and Sudan (Darfur) have yet to show substantial progress. Several developments such as unconstitutional regime changes experienced by some countries have also caused major concern.

Against this backdrop, Japan hosted the First TICAD Ministerial-level Meeting in Botswana in March 2009, as a follow-up event to the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in 2008. During the meeting, Japan made it clear that it would steadily fulfil the commitments it made during TICAD IV, which include the doubling of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa by 2012. Japan also called on the international community for enhanced assistance to Africa.

This issue was taken up during the G20 London Summit (in the U.K.) in April and also at the 35th G8 L�Aquila Summit (in Italy) in July, attesting to the need for the international community to enhance its support to Africa so that the region can also overcome the effects of the world economic and financial crises.

The policy of fully honoring the TICAD IV commitments has been maintained even after the change of Japanese government in September; Prime Minister Hatoyama announcing during the U.N. General Assembly in September that Japan would continue and strengthen the TICAD process. Moreover, during his meeting with the African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo in October, Foreign Minister Okada stated that the following points are the two fundamental principles of Japan�s policy on Africa under the Hatoyama administration: (i) With respect to assistance for development and growth, the Hatoyama administration will fulfil the commitments announced at TICAD IV without fail, including doubling Japan�s ODA and providing assistance for doubling Japanese private investment to Africa by 2012, and (ii) With respect to its contribution to peace and stability, the Hatoyama administration will strengthen peacebuilding efforts, including conflict resolution and peace keeping operations (PKO).

Number of high-level visits also took place. From Japan, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone visited Botswana in March and Special Ambassador Koizumi (former Prime Minister) visited Ghana in January. In March, Special Ambassador Fukuda (former Prime Minister) visited Uganda, Botswana and Kenya. In May, Special Ambassador Mori (former Prime Minister) visited South Africa. In March, Japan established a liaison office in Djibouti designed to support the activities of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Moreover, Japan set up embassies in Mauritania in December 2009 and also in Benin and Rwanda in January 2010, respectively, thereby strengthening the foundation of its diplomatic relations with Africa.

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