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International relations

Japan, Africa leaders wrap up TICAD talks, vowing to tackle food crisis

Fair and transparent financing stressed for spurring African growth

Participants in the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Tunis on Aug. 27.   © Reuters

TUNIS (Kyodo) -- Leaders from Japan and African nations on Sunday said the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine has caused a food crisis on the fast-growing continent, without referring to Moscow by name.

"We underscore with deep concern the negative socio-economic impact of this (Ukraine) crisis, which has created food insecurity in Africa in the challenging context of the post COVID-19," the leaders said in the Tunis Declaration issued following the Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in the Tunisian capital.

The leaders also affirmed the importance of "sound development finance adhering to international rules and standards" to spur sustainable growth in Africa, where China is increasing its clout through investment and development aid.

The meeting, known as TICAD 8, came amid rising concerns about stable food supplies and soaring food and energy prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The food crisis is being felt acutely in some African and Middle Eastern nations that are highly dependent on grain from Ukraine, a major producer.

Besides the Ukraine war, the African economy is still being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Dealing with challenges, such as a food crisis triggered by Russia's aggression against Ukraine and unfair and opaque development financing, has become an urgent task," Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a joint press conference after wrapping up the meeting.

Kishida joined the event virtually due to being infected with COVID-19. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi represented Japan in the Tunis meeting.

On Saturday, Kishida said Japan will inject $30 billion over the next three years into African development, including $300 million in co-financing with the African Development Bank, to boost food production.

Japan and other Group of Seven countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, plus the European Union -- have condemned Russia for destroying Ukraine's agricultural infrastructure and imposing a blockade of its Black Sea ports that has prevented shipments of Ukrainian crops.

Russia, for its part, has blamed the food shortages on Western economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

The G-7 members are concerned some African nations are accepting Moscow's claims and even calling for an easing of sanctions.

China has been criticized for using a "debt trap" policy in which it leverages debt to gain concessions from borrowing nations, such as long-term leases of port facilities and other infrastructure in strategically important areas.

In the declaration, the leaders urged major creditor countries and private lenders to adopt and follow fair and open lending practices.

The outcome document "compiled at this occasion will serve as a guidepost for future Japan-Africa relations and sustainable growth in post-COVID-19 Africa," Kishida said in a video message at the closing session.

"Japan will help realize sustainable development together with Africa with these approaches, which are unique to Japan, focusing on people," he added.

Co-hosted by Japan, the United Nations, the World Bank, the U.N. Development Program and the African Union Commission, TICAD has been held every three years since its fifth session in 2013. Before that, it had taken place every five years following its launch in 1993.

Kishida said Japan will host the next TICAD leaders meeting in 2025 without mentioning the name of any city.

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