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Economic crisis to rock Africa for two years

GABARONE, Mar 21 – Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone warned that the global economic crisis would affect Africa for at least two years, as he opened a development conference in Botswana on Saturday.

"The global financial and economic crisis that has arisen since this past autumn can be expected to impact the countries of Africa for at least two years to come," he told the gathering of ministers from about 30 African countries.

They are meeting over the weekend in Botswana\’s capital Gabarone to review a massive aid scheme launched by Japan last year, when Tokyo pledged to double aid to Africa by 2012 — from about 900 million dollars a year to an annual 1.8 billion dollars.

For Japan, the scheme also addresses growing alarm in Tokyo as emerging economies, particularly China, seal business deals and political alliances on the African continent.

Japan also used its original African aid summit in May, when the package was announced, to lobby for one of its top foreign policy goals — securing a permanent seat at the UN Security Council — which has been blocked under pressure from China.

Nakasone took pains to insist that Japan would not back down from its promised aid, even though its economy has slipped into its worst recession in decades.

"I would like to state once again that Japan is determined to carry out its commitments," he told the conference.

"What is now of the greatest concern is that there is a possibility that Africa will be profoundly affected by this crisis," he said, with a slowdown in the continent\’s economic growth and delays in achieving the UN\’s Millennium Development Goals to fight poverty and improve quality of life for the world\’s poor.

Nakasone also said that Japan would urge leaders of the Group of 20 nations who are gathering in London on April 2, to include African voices in their discussions on how to deal with the global crisis.

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