Provisional Translation of Speech by Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ryutaro Hashimoto
Title: Africa-Japan Partnership Toward the 21st Century
January 15, 1999
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to be given this opportunity to speak about Japan's African policy before such distinguished guests at this renowned South African Institute of International Affairs. I wanted very much to visit Africa when I served in the post of Prime Minister, but unfortunately I was unable to do so. Now my long-cherished wish has finally come true with this trip, and I am very happy indeed to have set foot on African soil. I remember that when Deputy President Thabo Mbeki visited Japan in April last year, he said that "something new always comes out of Africa". And yes, I can see for myself now that Africa is indeed blessed with energetic and vigourous people and rich natural resources and has immense potential for the twenty-first century. Actually, 40 years ago, in 1959, my father, who was then a member of the House of Representatives, visited Africa as a representative of Japan, and he returned to Japan strongly impressed by the enthusiasm and vigour of the African people on the eve of independence. In terms of today's national borders, my father visited 10 countries on that occasion. So you see, my interest in and sympathy to toward Africa has been nurtured since my student days.
I am certain that a bright future awaits Africa. For four centuries now, history has not been kind to Africa, and geography is still now very harsh toward Africa. But nevertheless, I would like to say this in a loud voice: The slave trade has ended; colonial rule has ended; the cold war has ended; and apartheid has ended. So the time has now come for the African people themselves to build Africa's future with their own hands.
In a speech at the United Nations University in Tokyo, during his visit to Japan in April of last year, Deputy President Mbeki said, and I quote: "From Morocco and Algeria to Guinea and Senegal, from Ghana and Nigeria to Tanzania and Kenya, from Angola to Zimbabwe and South Africa, Africans dared to stand up to say the new must be born, whatever the sacrifice we have to make - Africa must be free! Such a people has a legitimate right to expect of itself that it has the capacity to set itself free from the oppressive historical legacy of poverty, hunger, backwardness and marginalization." I am encouraged by this new current in Africa, by which people are making the utmost efforts to eliminate corruption and dictatorship in order to build people-oriented nations based on sound economic policies and under outstanding leadership. When the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development was held in Tokyo last October, I had the opportunity to hold discussions with heads of state and other leaders during a luncheon meeting, and I keenly felt this new current that is being pushed forward by African leaders. For someone like myself who has been strongly promoting reform in Japan, it was very encouraging indeed.
Nevertheless, it must be said that every coin inevitably has two sides. Since the latter half of last year, regional conflicts involving many African countries, such as the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been growing serious. I would say that they are becoming stumbling blocks to the development of Africa. At the same time, it seems to me that they are an indication that Africa now stands at a turning point of history. I sincerely hope that African countries can unite, overcome the turmoil that always accompanies change, and achieve an "African Renaissance" that is full of hope. Japan is determined, together with other Asian countries and the international community, to support the self-help efforts of Africa toward renewal and restoration. Your self-help efforts toward peace and order are a prerequisite for achieving renewal and restoration. Even if you are forced to go one step back today, you can work hard and go two steps forward tomorrow. Such perseverance and conviction is necessary. And it is essential that the beacon of enthusiasm for restoration must never be extinguished. This is how I myself felt when I initiated six major reforms in Japan to lead the country out of its economic plight.
The stability and development of Africa is a major issue for the international community. Amid the trend toward globalization, the further marginalization of Africa would be unfortunate for the international community as a whole and would not benefit anybody. Furthermore, I realize that it is necessary for us to work with the people of Africa to solve such issues as the environment, development, and reform of the United Nations and thereby build a better twenty-first century. On the basis of such recognition, Japan has been extending support to Africa from the heart, and we will continue to do so. It is not simply a matter of figures. For example, despite the Asian economic crisis, it is a fact that Japan still accounts for one-sixth of the world's gross national product. And it is a fact that Japan, the top donor, supplies one-fifth of the world's official development assistance. But the important thing to remember is that Japan's actions come from the heart. Without wishing to sound circuitous, let me elaborate on this point.
First of all, I would like to point to a couple of keys for Africa's rebirth in the twenty-first century. The first key is to retain your rich traditional culture as well as your own identity amid the process of globalization. The second is then to learn as is necessary from other parts of the world, from Europe and the United States, from Asia, including Japan, and from other African countries, and to take in the good points so as to make your own culture and society even more affluent and powerful. Japan has been strongly urging the international community to form a partnership with African countries and support their ownership. Through such appeals, Japan, on an interactive and equal basis, wants to play a role as a catalyst to assist the African countries in their own efforts toward nation building, utilizing the cultural, economic, and political diversity of the continent.
The second point I would like to make concerns Japan's own development since the end of World War II, during my own lifetime as a youth and a politician. My South African friends here probably only know the present-day prosperous Japan. Indeed, one of the reasons why you do not know much about Japan in the past is that Japan was alone among the G-7 countries in not having had diplomatic relations with South Africa under the apartheid regime. What I would like to say here is that Japan has groped its way to the state that it is in today through a process of national reconstruction after being reduced to ashes at the end of World War II, and we have scored not only successes but also made many errors on the way.
Let me tell you about some success stories first. Today the average longevity in Japan is over 80 years, the longest in the world. Fifty years ago, though, even Japanese people talked in terms of a life of only 50 years. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not boasting about Japan here, but speaking for your reference only. Now, there are three reasons why Japan has become a long-living nation. First, thanks to the introduction of medical insurance, state-of-the-art medical treatment could reach down to even ordinary people. Second, thanks to the diffusion of water services, including simplified water-supply systems, contagious diseases have declined dramatically. The securing of safe drinking water is extremely important as a basic condition for health. And third, we did launch parasitic countermeasures. Efforts to eradicate parasites, from roundworms to bilharzia, are extremely important for securing basic health conditions for human beings. And together with these three reasons, we also systematically built up welfare services. As a result, in Japanese society today, as long as you are careful, you will not suffer any health problems. Incidentally, I should add that it has often been pointed out that the combination of this health and education for all is the foundation of Japan's prosperity.
Now let me mention some failures. First, of course, there is the environmental problem. Ten years after their defeat in the war, the Japanese people regained the prewar level of gross national product, and they went on working diligently, so that in 1964, Japan became a country where the International Monetary Fund's article 8 applies, which abolishes restrictions on foreign exchange, gained membership of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and hosted the Olympic Games in Tokyo. In other words, Japan gained full re-entry into the international community. But then we suddenly realized that in the process our beautiful Japanese archipelago had become a polluted archipelago. There were even cases of precious life being lost because of atmospheric pollution or water pollution caused by chemical substances. We had not been aware of the limits on the self-purifying functions of nature. That was 30 years ago. Since then we have adopted various anti-pollution measures, as a result of which today, for example, the anti-sulphur devices in the chimneys of factories in Japan are the highest level in the world, and the hybrid car, a low-pollution automobile that combines an electricity-powered motor and gasoline engine, has already achieved success in the market. However, it has been a long roundabout path with many sacrifices.
Another failure has been woodland. Today two-thirds of Japan's national land is covered by steep mountains, and these mountains are covered by forests. That was also the case in the past. However, in 1945, as a result of the war, there were hardly any trees left on the mountains. So Japan, in a hurry to restore greenery to the land and thinking only about speedy growth, planted coniferous trees on mountainsides around the country. That is how we got today's "green mountains". Unfortunately, from the perspective of global warming, which has become a major issue today, we should have planted broad-leafed trees, which would have had the same greening effect, instead of coniferous trees. If we could replace the trees, it would of course be a simple matter. But unfortunately the price of timber is so low now that we cannot cut down the coniferous trees. So as you see, we have our problems.
Looking at things in this way, when we think about the lives of individual people and their happiness, we are made aware again of the importance of sharing our experiences across national borders. The same is true among the developed countries. It was for this reason that I proposed the "Initiative for a Caring World" at the G-7 Summit. By this I meant that countries should share the knowledge and experience that they gain in domestically tackling welfare problems - in a broad sense, problems relating to the social security system - with others so that we can all solve our respective worries and problems, thus enabling all of us to build better societies and pass them on to the next generation. This initiative received support from other leaders and led to full-fledged efforts to tackle the issues of aging and contagious diseases. I am delighted that my initiative has led to concrete activities today in the World Health Organization and individual countries. Also, from the perspective of this initiative, between Japan and South Africa, I am pleased to say that then Japanese Minister of Health and Welfare Shinichiro Koizumi and South African Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma have already exchanged visits.
Now, they say that nation building starts with human resources development, and certainly enabling people with healthy bodies to received proper education is more important than anything else for a nation's development. Also, needless to say, we believe that education and health should be the common assets os men and women alike. In this way, such factors as the nation's health, education, women's empowerment, the economic activity of each and every citizen, political freedom and social peace are the fundamental conditions for a country's development. And this is precisely what is advocated by the Tokyo Agenda for Action, which was adopted by the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or the TICAD II, in Tokyo last October. I resolved to hold the TICAD II in 1996, when I was Prime Minister, and I sent then Foreign Minister Ikeda to the general assembly of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which was being held here in South Africa, to announce our decision to hold the conference. Deputy President Mbeki attended the TICAD II and actively led the discussions. Also, National Assembly Speaker Dr. Frene Ginwala attended as a co-chairman of the Global Coalition for Africa. Representatives from 80 countries, 40 international organizations, and 22 non-governmental organizations participated to discuss African development based on the African countries' ownership and partnership with the world. I believe that the premises of self-responsibility, equal relations and true heat-to heat relations were realized as a common awareness at the conference.
From now on, it will be extremely important to have a concrete follow-up to the Tokyo Agenda for Action. For this purpose, Japan will promote co-operation with Africa. Among this co-operation, let me cite a few examples. First, in the fields of education, health and medical care, and water supplies, Japan will provide grant aid co-operation of 90 billion yen over the next five years, supplying new educational facilities for two million children and improving the living environment for more than 15 million people. We will also set up centres in Kenya and Ghana to step up the battle against parasitic diseases and assist such issues as population, AIDS, and polio. Second, from the perspective that a country's economic development can be accelerated by making the private sector more active, an Asia-Africa Investment Information Service Centre will be set up in Southeast Asia to direct the attention of Asia's small and medium-sized companies toward Africa. We will also support Africa's tourist industry which is an important source of foreign currency income. Third, to promote post-conflict development, for example we will co-operate in eliminating landmines in Mozambique as a part of Japan's support of about 10 billion yen over five years for the elimination of antipersonnel landmines around the world and assistance to victims. Another important issue that I should mention is Africa's debt problem, Japan has been extending grant aid for debt relief. Of about 310 billion yen extended to the world as a whole so far, about 30 billion yen has gone to sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope to increase this figure from now on.
Turning to bilateral relations between South Africa and Japan, relations between our two countries have advanced considerably since the inauguration of the new government. In April of last year, when I was Prime Minister, Deputy President Mbeki and myself agreed in Tokyo to establish the Japan-South Africa Partnership Forum a bilateral committee. The working-level meeting of the forum was held in Pretoria this week. This forum will consider ways of strengthening relations between South Africa and Japan in a wide range of fields. I hope that from now on, through this forum, our friendly and co-operative bilateral relationship will be further enhanced.
With regard to bilateral trade and investment, relations remain sound despite Japan's difficult economic situation, and Japanese companies continue to see South Africa as a base for economic exchange with Africa as a whole. I am aware that the South African government is promoting a sound economic policy called GEAR to address the main issue of employment creation. Japan strongly supports this policy. For this purpose, for example, Japan-co-operates in South Africa's efforts to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. Also, as far as possible, we are promoting technical co-operation for the improvement of social safety.
I sincerely hope that the African Continent will successfully overcome this transformational period, with can be called a historical challenge and move along the road to peace and prosperity. I am convinced that African countries' own efforts toward reforms will be the propelling force for the development and progress of Africa in the twenty-first century. At the Versailles Conference after World War I, 80 years ago, Japan, for the first time in the world, proposed the conclusion of a treaty to eliminate racial discrimination. Because of opposition from the European and North American powers, that treaty never saw the light of day. But our belief is that all races and all states are equal. In a relationship of equality with Africa, and as a humble partner, we intend to reach out with a hand of solidarity so that the people of Africa, each and every individual, has the belief that "tomorrow, without fail, will be better than today." And I myself intend to play a leading role in Japan for this purpose.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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