Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged US$1 billion in new aid for education and health care in Africa at the opening yesterday of a major donor conference for the continent.
The funds, to be dispersed over five years, will go toward building primary schools, supplying drinking water and expanding vaccinations.
The announcement opened three days of talks at a Tokyo conference on fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development in Africa.
Heads of state from 23 African countries and representatives of leading donor nations and international aid bodies were due to discuss infectious diseases, the prevention of conflict and investment on the continent during the meeting.
Koizumi said Japan has provided Africa assistance totaling US$12 billion since the first TICAD conference a decade ago.
And while experts say Japanese aid is critical for addressing urgent issues in Africa such as HIV/AIDS, it also furthers Tokyo's strategy of assuming a more prominent role in global diplomacy -- including an aim to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.