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Japan’s prime minister has vowed to push for a permanent African seat at the UNSC, days after announcing major financial aid for the continent.

Japan has pledged to use its seat on the UN Security Council next year to push for a permanent African seat at the world body, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Sunday. Japan will work closely with African countries to promote “more resilient” economies, he said at the final session of an investment conference in Tunisia, a day after announcing $30 billion in public and private financing for the continent.

Japan wants to “create an environment where African people can live in peace and security so that they can develop,” Kishida said via live video from Tokyo after testing positive for Covid-19 days ago.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the 55-member African Union, has backed Kishida’s call for the continent to get a seat on the UN Security Council. Conflicts “that destabilize us and hinder our development must be taken into account by the Security Council” which aims to promote international peace and security, Sall said.

He called for a greater role for African peacekeepers in conflict resolution. “There can be no development without security,” Sal said.

The eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) took place in Tunisia, one of many import-dependent countries hit by global supply disruptions and price hikes caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. About 20 African heads of state and government attended the conference in the North African country, which brought together about 5,000 people from business and other sectors and closed major roads across Tunis, causing weekend traffic chaos.

‘new approach’

Host President Kais Said of Tunisia called for a “new approach” to Africa, noting that many countries that have taken on large foreign debts since independence were also net exporters of human resources – skills acquired in Africa to be used in the global north. “Who is lending to whom?” she asked.

Sall called for the rescheduling or cancellation of African debt, as well as the implementation of the G20 group of countries’ pledge to suspend interest payments. “Given the twin crises we are facing, these measures are necessary to restart our economy,” he said.

The summit comes as Japan’s rival China strengthens its influence on the continent through its “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, and experts raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of some African countries’ borrowing from Beijing.

Kishida also announced that Japan would appoint a special envoy to the Horn of Africa, where a long and devastating drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and parts of Somalia prompted the UN Meteorological Agency to warn of an “unprecedented humanitarian disaster” this week.

In West Africa, Kishida said Japan would pump $8.3 million into the troubled but gold-rich Liptako-Gourma tri-border region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, which has been ravaged by jihadist attacks in recent years. He said the aid would aim to “develop better cooperation between residents and local authorities” and help improve administrative services for the area’s five million residents.

In a final statement, conference participants expressed deep concern over the “negative socio-economic impact” of the Ukraine crisis, saying it has created food insecurity in Africa. “(We) repeat repeated calls for the resumption of exports of cereals, grains and agricultural products as well as fertilizers to the world market to provide relief to the African population,” the declaration said.

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