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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

"When Depicting Africa, We Should Employ whole New Discourse" At the Alliance Forum Foundation Development Programme (AFDP) Conference By Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Friday, May 31, 2013

Fuyo, Royal Park Hotel, Yokohama

Hello and good afternoon, everyone. Representing the Japanese government, I should like to make a few welcoming remarks.

We are all gratified to be hosting TICAD V this year, in the same year when the OAU/AU commemorates its golden jubilee. The conference you are just about to convene is really the icing on the cake.

It feels as if I am standing now on the exact spot where the world history undergoes transformational changes.

Nothing is more telling about the unfolding reality that Africa presents in our new era than what you are working for. You are on course for finalizing in two years the first-phase negotiations for the economic unification, among the COMESA, SADC and the EAC, covering as many as 527 million people.

Throughout the TICAD V, I am going to hammer home to the people in Japan and the rest of the world that when depicting Africa we should employ whole new discourse and when painting the continent we should use drastically different colour.

I also intend to emphasize that to invest into a growing Africa is tantamount to investing into our own future. And nothing underscores the thinking of mine more than the actions now taking shape for the unification of the COMESA, SADC and the EAC.

The actions are the ones most endogenous, born from within Africa. These are the actions that have steadily gained a voice: that the fate of Africa and the future of the continent should firmly be in the hands of none other than the Africans, who advance, most devotedly.

You are enhancing connectivity for the free flow of people and goods. Added to that is the banking function of your own. What is unfolding is a rare drama being played out in so evocative a fashion that one is, and I am myself, tempted to take part as an actor, or else one could miss some great opportunity.

To the leaders who have joined the conference today, I should say that I want you to know the following. It is as if you are knitting one great tapestry. Into its woof, do mix the thread of Japanese businesses and you will surely see the tapestry obtaining richness in colour and strengths in durability.

Why am I confident this much in saying such a thing?

Look around the room and notice that each and every one of the Japanese companies participating possesses their own unique, or simply the best, technologies and management knowhow ever available in the world. And yet, embodying those are NOT their material assets such as their well-equipped factories, clean laboratories or the machine tool they keep under beautiful care.

It is the people that embody the values. Their work force that creates those assets and give the kaizen day in and day out to those assets does embody the uniqueness and the strengths of these corporations. They are not the kind of people you might imagine well-paid, dominating their large-scaled and well air-conditioned offices.
Many of them may not have advanced degrees.

Yet, the Japanese pay high esteem to the unknown, but most dedicated workers by calling them "stars spangling on the ground." At night in the sky, you can surely see stars if you look up. But look down on the ground; you will also see small spangling "stars," those unknown people dedicated to their own tasks. And it is a firm belief of the Japanese that it has always been, since the country embarked on a journey of modernization, these unnoticed shining stars on the ground that have uplifted their nation to where it is now.

Ask any one of the members of the Japanese corporations you see in this room. They will tell you in unison, I am certain, that they wish to foster the spangling stars also in Africa, among the Africans, on their own soil.

That is exactly the reason why I hereby make a request that you choose Japanese companies and the Japanese business people as your own companions, who can run forward with you. Theirs is the view that the first, the second and the third most important thing is keep empowering people. This view must find leeway into Africa.

It has been a tremendous honour for me to be able to kick-start this fascinating conference. That is entirely thanks to George Hara, a long-time friend of mine, someone I admire among our contemporaries. For all that I remain thankful.

Thank you very much.

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