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East Asia’s Lessons for Africa

On June 1-3, Japan is hosting the fifth meeting of TICAD, the Tokyo International Cooperation on African Development. Japan’s engagement is particularly important not only in terms of money and moral support, but also because Africa may learn something from East Asia’s development experience.

NEW YORK – On June 1-3, Japan is hosting the fifth meeting of TICAD, the Tokyo International Cooperation on African Development. The meeting is a reminder that, while the rest of the world obsesses over Europe’s economic travails, America’s political paralysis, and the growth slowdown in China and other emerging markets, there remains a region – Sub-Saharan Africa – where poverty is almost the rule, not the exception.

From 1990 to 2010, the number of people living in poverty ($1.25 per day) across Sub-Saharan Africa rose from less than 300 million to nearly 425 million, while the number living on less than $2 a day grew from about 390 million to almost 600 million. Still, the proportion of those living in poverty declined from 57% to 49% in this period. [See graph below.]

Developed countries have repeatedly broken their promises of aid or trade. Yet Japan, still suffering from two decades of economic malaise, has somehow managed to remain actively engaged – not because of its strategic interests, but in order to meet a genuine moral imperative, namely that those who are better off should help those in need.

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