Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.33 (May 29, 2008) ============================================================
"'Towards a Vibrant Africa.' This is Yasuo Fukuda."
The volunteers spoke with relish of their interaction with local people, as well as on other aspects of their assignments. It was very clear from their enthusiasm that each and every one of their activities had been truly productive and fruitful, despite the fact that they could not take electricity and running water for granted.
To be frank, there is no denying that Africa is a very distant presence when viewed from Japan. The image that some people may have of Africa is of a continent characterized by conflict and poverty.
Such problems are indeed the reality in parts of Africa. Ms. Rui Matsuno, a nurse who was dispatched to Burkina Faso to improve hygiene management for the prevention of malaria and other diseases, commented, "The gravity of life is the same the world over."
Yet Africa is undergoing enormous changes.
Mr. Chiharu Nagakita, a teacher who worked to improve math and science education in Ethiopia, noted, "Africa is no different to other societies in that one's educational background is highly valued." He said that a single class comprised of nearly 100 students overflowed with the vibrancy of their "eagerness that knew no bounds."
Ms. Etsuko Kato, a social worker who in Rwanda set up a workshop for water buffalo horn handicrafts, said that the faces of the people who received vocational training there "lit up."
Africa is poised to take a new leap towards the century of African growth. This is indeed the perfect time for the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) that opened yesterday in Yokohama, attended by national leaders and ministers from more than 40 African countries.
There is absolutely no doubt that Japan will continue to give all the support it can to resolve issues including those related to health and sanitation in Africa.
At the same time, I also intend to focus on aid that will bolster growth in Africa, such as the development of road networks and other forms of infrastructure and the provision of support to Japanese companies looking to expand business operations in Africa.
A vibrant Africa brims with hope for the future; extending aid not only benefits Africa itself, but also represents a great opportunity for Japan. At TICAD IV my hope is to talk with as many African leaders as possible, in order to build a partnership between Japan and Africa to progress hand-in-hand in the century of African growth.
More than 10,000 JOCVs have carried out assignments in Africa, and many of the incoming volunteers express a particular desire to be dispatched there. I feel very encouraged to learn that young people have a high level of interest in Africa.
I strongly hope that TICAD IV will encourage even more people to take an interest in Africa, and that it will serve to bring Africa just that little bit closer.
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