Sasakawa Speaks to African Diplomats [2007/07/25]
African Diplomats at the Nippon Foundation building
On June 21, ambassadors and envoys from 35 of Africa’s 53 countries met at The Nippon Foundation Building in Tokyo. All African nations with embassies in Japan were in attendance. It was the first time for the monthly meeting to be held at the foundation, and the secretariat took the opportunity to request that Chairman Yohei Sasakawa brief the assembly on foundation’s activities in Africa.
Mr. Sasakawa, the chairman of the Nippon Foundation
Mr. Sasakawa first addressed the current state of leprosy control on the continent, reporting that aside from Mozambique and D.R. Congo, all African nations have achieved the World Health Organization’s leprosy elimination target (less than one person with leprosy per 10,000). He commented that, “we may be able to control leprosy medically within two to three years.” He also pointed out that individuals affected by the disease, including those who have recovered, still face deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination, and requested further cooperation in rectifying this state of affairs.
Mr. Sasakawa next spoke of the Sasakawa--Global 2000 agricultural assistance program, which began in the 1980s with famine relief activities in Ethiopia. He pointed out that although Western countries strongly support a move to large-scale farms, and while many African leaders strongly favor the development of agriculture as an export industry, “70 to 80% of the African population must still struggle merely to feed itself. Improving the farming skills of this 70% is necessary to resolving the issue of poverty.”
To deal with rural poverty, the Sasakawa--Global 2000 program distributes quality seeds and small amounts of fertilizer to farmers, at a charge. Although this practice has fallen under criticism by some who claim that chemical fertilizers damage the environment and that Africa should practice organic agriculture, Mr. Sasakawa rebuffs such criticism. His contentions are that Africa currently has large tracts of unproductive land, and that Western nations use 300 times more chemical fertilizer. He also commented, “Africa has a rich culture and history. Instead of providing guidance from on high, I would like to continue providing support, by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Africa.”
In addition, Mr. Sasakawa noted that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has called for cooperation in assisting Africa, based on the same “Green Revolution” concept espoused by the Sasakawa Africa Association.He said he would like to “take a positive approach” in this area.
Mr. Sasakawa has been to 20 of the 35 countries represented at the meeting, and plans to visit D.R. Congo and Tanzania this fall.