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Wolfowitz urges investment in Africa’s infrastructure

Sending aid isn’t enough to help reduce poverty in Africa, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Monday. Rich countries need to do more by investing in basic services like electricity and transportation, he said.

”While aid is important, trade and investment are critical to generating jobs and creating opportunities for people in developing countries,” said Wolfowitz, who is on a four-day visit to Japan.

Investment is especially needed to develop electricity, telecommunications and transportation networks, he said. These services are necessary for businesses to function and engage in trade, as well as help people in their daily lives, communicate with one another and acquire knowledge, he said.

The remarks repeated themes Wolfowitz touched on Monday morning in an address on infrastructure and development to the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics, which was co-organised by the World Bank and Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki also spoke at the conference, where he announced Japan’s plans to contribute up to $2-million toward a World Bank initiative to support development research on agriculture and climate change.

Wolfowitz, known as the prime architect of the Iraq war during his time as the US deputy defence secretary, later met with Foreign Minister Taro Aso, bank spokesperson Tomoko Hirai said. She declined to provide details of the conversation.

He was scheduled to meet Tanigaki on the conference sidelines late on Monday afternoon, she said.

Wolfowitz also plans to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during his visit, but arrangements have not yet been finalised, she said. Japan is the World Bank’s second-largest shareholder.

Wolfowitz arrived on Saturday for the Japan leg of his May 27-31 Asia tour — which later includes a stop in South Korea — with the purpose of discussing development and anti-poverty issues with Japanese officials, business representatives and non-governmental group leaders.

Anti-poverty efforts for Africa were to be a key agenda item during the visit, he said on arrival, drawing attention to Koizumi’s trip to Africa earlier this month.

In July 2005, Koizumi reversed Japan’s policy of slashing foreign aid to pledge new assistance to Africa, saying Japan would boost overseas aid by $10-billion (â,¬7,81-billion) over the next five years. – Sapa-AP

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