Wednesday, March 25, 2009

H. H. Lt.Gen. Mompati s. Merafhe on Opening of the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development Ministerial follow-up Meeting

source: Republic of Botswana (23/3/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 8 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


Your Excellency the Former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Yasuo Fukuda;
[Salutations]....Ladies and Gentlemen;

1. Let me start by welcoming you all to Botswana, and to Gaborone
in particular. It is an honour and a privilege to receive so many of you
amongst us. That you left the comfort of your homes and travelled long
distances to be here today demonstrates your goodwill and friendship
towards us. This also demonstrates your commitment to the TICAD process.
Please feel at home!

2. You are welcome to stay a little longer after the conference to
spoil yourselves with the pristine beauty of our countryside and, of
course, the friendship and hospitality of our people. I wish to extend a
special word of welcome to the representatives of the Government of
Japan, who hosted us during successive TICAD meetings. We are
particularly delighted to have this opportunity to reciprocate the
hospitality and friendship extended to us by the Government and people
of Japan.

3. Mr. Chairman, Botswana is honoured to host this first TICAD IV
Ministerial Follow-up Meeting in collaboration with the Government of
Japan. I wish to thank the Government of Japan and other TICAD
co-organisers for the confidence they have shown in us by selecting
Botswana to co-host this important Meeting. May I also pay tribute to
former Prime Minister Fukuda for his excellent chairmanship during TICAD
IV in Yokohama last year, and thank him personally for gracing this
important occasion.

4. TICAD IV introduced two key concepts; that of accentuating
Africa's ownership of its development programmes and creating a
partnership with Japan and other partners. This Ministerial Follow-up
Meeting is one of the three structures created to ensure effective
implementation of initiatives adopted by the TICAD IV Summit. In the
next two days you will therefore be reviewing progress made,
particularly in the implementation of the Yokohama Action Plan. The
Action Plan encapsulates a number of development programmes to be
carried out in the next five years.

5. There is no better blueprint for our ambitious plan to bring
relief and launch Africa on its path of sustainable development. The
review of the Action Plan therefore becomes a necessary process to
fulfil our noble objective. Your active participation in this regard
needs no further emphasis.

6. Mr. Chairman, this meeting takes place against the backdrop of a
global financial crisis. Those in the know are painting a very gloomy
picture. I am aware that a whole session will be devoted to the Global
Financial Crisis. But it is important to highlight some of our concerns
at this point in time, especially the effect this phenomenon is bound to
have on our economies.

7. By all accounts, Sub-Saharan Africa's economic growth is bound
to fall to an average of 3.3 per cent from a previous figure of 6.6 per
cent average. Of the 43 countries classified as facing high exposure to
poverty risks as a result of global economic crisis, 26 are from Africa,
including Botswana. Commodity prices are on a downward spiral. This
reduces in real terms income flows for the developing countries and
impacts negatively on their economic growth. The gains made in the
previous years are under threat of being completely eroded.

8. The global financial and economic crisis is by far the greatest
challenge we face in our modern times. But as the saying goes, "in every
dark cloud there is a silver lining". The crisis offers some
opportunity. We must see the crisis as a clarion call for us as
Governments and individuals to revisit our expenditure patterns; to
eliminate inefficiencies and waste; direct our safety nets to those who
need them most; and quicken the transformation of our economies so that
we can benefit when the global economy picks up. These steps must be
cognisant of the fact that, Africa is the only continent lagging behind
in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

9. The onus for action lies with us, and we have to be bold,
disciplined and accountable in shouldering this responsibility. However,
Africa cannot do it alone. In this hour of need, it is without doubt
that Africa needs the support of all her development partners as she
navigates out of this tenuous situation.

10. Mr. Chairman, although much of what I said was eloquently
expressed during TICAD IV, this meeting affords us the opportunity to
underscore the same concerns, and to determine what cause of action to
take. It also provides an important opportunity to articulate African
concerns ahead of the G-20 Summit in April.

11. I am pleased to note that the Government of Japan has indicated
its willingness to convey our agreed concerns to the G-20 leaders at
their forthcoming Summit. This is a commendable and excellent example of
the TICAD partnership at work. It is also a demonstration of the
continued proactive leadership by Japan, which last year successfully
conveyed the African views expressed in Yokohama to both the Rome Food
Summit and the Toyako G-8 Summit.

12. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, at a time when the liquidity
crunch is affecting rich and poor countries alike, it is heartening to
hear confirmation of the Government of Japan's intention to fulfil its
TICAD commitment of doubling aid to Africa over the next five years. I
must express our deep appreciation to both Japan and the World Bank for
the other support measures, which include the establishment of the
recapitalisation fund and trade financing facility, to mitigate the
adverse impact of the economic crisis on the developing countries.

13. As we evaluate the performance of the Government of Japan and
our other partners on their commitments, Africa must however ensure that
necessary measures are in place to improve governance, implement sound
economic policies, and create the basis for broad-based growth and
development. That is our responsibility and ours alone. This meeting
serves as a call for action; and in responding to this call; we must
focus on the fundamentals.

14. The importance of infrastructure, agriculture, and human
resource development were the main themes highlighted at TICAD-IV, as
areas where the challenges are matched by Africa's potential. First and
foremost, it is a fact that economic growth rates have direct
implications for human welfare. For example, lower growth rates will
sharply slow progress in reducing infant mortality. Preliminary World
Bank estimates for 2009 to 2015 forecast infant deaths in developing
countries to average 200,000 to 400,000 per year, higher than they would
have been in the absence of the crisis. This means that a total of 1.4
to 2.8 million more infants may die if the crisis persists. We cannot
afford to be complacent in this regard, because the well-being of future
generations is at stake.

15. Secondly, we must focus our efforts on reducing Africa's
infrastructure deficit. Better infrastructure is fundamental if we are
to be ready to reap the benefits when the global economy improves.

16. Mr. Chairman, the HIV and AIDS epidemic is exacting a heavy toll
on our continent. Sub-Saharan Africa is worst affected by the scourge
and Southern Africa region is the epicentre of the pandemic. I am happy
to say that Botswana, as a country, is making significant gains in the
fight against HIV and AIDS. By June 2008, we expanded antiretroviral
coverage to an estimated 93 percent of the affected population. These
concerted efforts, together with the introduction of a routine HIV
testing policy, have successfully halved the number of AIDS-related
deaths in Botswana. We are grateful for the assistance extended to us in
this area by our cooperating partners, including Japan.

17. Mr. Chairman, one of the opportunities that I would like to
emphasise is the regional approach to solving our development
challenges. Regional integration holds great promise, because we can go
beyond the traditional country-by-country approach and benefit from
economies of scale. Through collaboration we stand to learn from each
others experiences. I would like to commend the Government of Japan for
supporting South-South cooperation, and for fostering Africa-Asia and
Africa-Africa cooperation. Once again, I thank the Government of Japan
for its continued support to Africa.

18. The same gratitude goes to the other co-organisers of the TICAD
process namely: the World Bank; UNDP; and UN Office of Special Adviser
on Africa for their support. May I now declare this TICAD Ministerial
Follow-up Meeting official opened! I thank you for your attention!

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