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Liberia's Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, has held series of bilateral discussions aimed at strengthening and expanding existing relations and fostering new partnerships. Minister Ngafuan met Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba on Saturday, May 5th and the Moroccan Foreign Minister Dr. Saad Dine El Otmani on Sunday, May 6, 2012.
The meetings were held on the margin of the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) Ministerial Follow-up Meeting in Marrakech, Morocco held on May 5-6, 2012.
In the meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Minister Ngafuan noted that the monetization of the foreign aid grant provided by the Government of Japan has helped Liberia undertake vital projects not covered by its national budget but essential to development and human security. Minister Ngafuan expressed the hope that the partnership assistance would continue. According to the Liberian Foreign Minister, "such assistance that provides needed resources to carry out projects which impact the lives of the Liberian people should be enhanced."
Over the past few years, the government of Japan included in its aid package to Liberia the provision of rice and fuel that were monetized to fund projects that foster economic development, prominent among which was the paddy rice project implemented through the Ministry of Agriculture.
Continuing, Minister Ngafuan underscored the need for Japanese investments in the private sector, especially in infrastructure and technology development, stressing that such intervention will also contribute to job creation and poverty reduction in Liberia.
The Liberian Foreign Minister commended the resilience of the Government and people of Japan for the country's recovery and reconstruction efforts following the earthquake and tsunami tragedy one year ago that resulted in untold loss of lives and massive destruction of property. Minister Ngafuan also commended Japan for living up to all its commitments made to Africa's development despite the massive tragedy the country encountered.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan conveyed warm greetings from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Japanese Emperor as well as the Japanese people and assured his Japanese counterpart of Liberia's strong commitment to expanding and strengthening economic and development ties with Japan with the aim of attracting Japanese businesses to Liberia.
In response, the Japanese Foreign Minister expressed appreciation and happiness for the warm greetings from President Sirleaf to the Japanese Emperor and commended Liberia's progress after a difficult period of conflict. Minister Gemba disclosed that the points made by Foreign Minister Ngafuan were noted and would be "seriously considered" through follow-up modalities to be worked out via diplomatic channels.
In discussions with the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, Dr. Saad Dine El Otmani, Minister Ngafuan alluded to several critical areas of cooperation between Liberia and the Kingdom of Morocco which could be pursued for the mutual interest and benefit of the two countries and peoples. The areas of cooperation included scholarship opportunities for Liberian students to study in Morocco in various disciplines, development of Liberia's tourism sector through investment and capacity building support to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), as well as energy, sports, and trade promotion.
For his part, the Moroccan Foreign Minister informed Minister Ngafuan that his Government would offer thirty-five (35) scholarship slots for Liberian students to study in various disciplines in Morocco and assured that his Government would increase the number of scholarships offered to Liberia in subsequent years. Minister El Otmani noted that Liberian students benefitting from Moroccan scholarships will also get the opportunity of learning the French language.
Regarding the issue of tourism, Minister El Otmani assured that his Government stands prepared to help Liberia improve its tourism potential through capacity building support to MICAT and other relevant Liberian government institutions. Minister El Otmani also noted his Government interest in helping Liberia develop its housing sector.
At the end of the meeting the two foreign ministers agreed that the Joint Commission meeting that will bring together relevant officials of both governments and other stakeholders in all the areas of cooperation will be held in Morocco later this year at a date to be arranged. It can be recalled that the last Joint Commission meeting between the two countries was held last year in Monrovia.
Meanwhile, Liberia was among more than forty seven (47) African countries, and several international organizations that attended the just ended TICAD Meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. The Government of Japan organized the 4th TICAD meeting in collaboration with the UN, UNDP, the World Bank and the AU Commission. The Government of Morocco served as the host.
The TICAD process is a roadmap for forging strategic partnership between Japan and Africa. The 4th TICAD Ministerial Follow-up Meeting was organized to review the progress achieved in the implementation of the Yokohama Action Plan as well as to commence discussion for TICAD V, scheduled for March 2013 in Tokyo, Japan.
The Yokohama Action Plan has three major pillars for support to Africa's growth and development under the TICAD process: Boosting Economic Growth, Ensuring Human Security and Addressing Environmental Issues.
The Liberian Foreign Minister led a four-member delegation at the conference, which included Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration Hon. Sando Wayne, Liberia's Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Youngor Telewoda and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Sarah F. Dorbor.