Taiwan & Africas Development
By Jhy-wey Shieh
The situation in Africa has captured the attention of the international community since the early 1990s and has increasingly become the major focus of many bilateral and multilateral forums held over the last decade.
The General Assembly of the United Nations passed the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in 1991, which was followed by the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) hosted by the Japanese government, the United Nations, and the Global Coalition for Africa in 1993.
In the United States, President Bill Clinton first proposed the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to Congress in 1996 to provide preferential terms of trade for African exports to the U.S. in an effort to generate economic activity and create employment opportunities.
AGOA was passed and became effective in 2000, the same year that world leaders at the Millennium Summit committed themselves to helping less developed nations meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The majority of the targeted countries of the MDGs are located in Africa.
The year 2000 also witnessed the establishment of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum (CACF) in Beijing. After two triennial ministerial level meetings, this forum was upgraded to a summit of heads of state or government in 2006.
In Europe, France expanded its Conference of Heads of State of Africa and France to include non-francophone countries in 1996 while then British Prime Minister Tony Blair established the Commission for Africa in 2004 which issued a report ``Our Common Interest" in 2005, the release of which coincided with Great Britain's hosting of the G-8 meeting at Gleneagles that had an African focus.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed her European counterparts in 2006 when the G-8 summit held at Heiligendamm, Germany, again featured aid to Africa as one of its major themes. In 2008, Japan will host both the G-8 summit and the fourth TICAD conference.
Africa will be, no doubt, the major focus of these meetings. South Korea, a nation comparable in economic size and level of development to Taiwan, held the first Korea-Africa Forum last November. Six African heads of state and more than thirty cabinet level ministers from some twenty African countries participated in this forum.
Taiwan was a beneficiary of foreign economic assistance in the 1950s and early 1960s when it was still a developing agrarian economy. With the launch of export-oriented industrialization and the establishment of high-tech industries, Taiwan has become a mature economy and is now a highly developed society ready to give back to the international community.
Although not as wealthy as the G-8 countries, nor as large as China, Taiwan aspires and is willing to be part of international efforts to help Africa rise out of poverty.
What's more, we also have much to share to help African countries improve their people's livelihood and achieve better political and economic governance. More importantly, assistance from Taiwan is not linked to mercantilist interests but is rather given from the heart.
In the past, Taiwan has sent agricultural and medical teams to Africa to help people at the grassroots level. Now we are going to utilize our advanced information technology and acclaimed public health resources to assist African countries to move forward.
With these considerations in mind, Taiwan and its African allies will hold the First Taiwan-Africa Summit in September 2007. Digitization, health and welfare, economic sustainability and development, and peace are among the themes of this meeting.
Taiwan already engages in a similar type of cooperation with Central American countries through the annual Mixed Commission Conference of Central American Nations with Taiwan and the ROC-Central American Summit. To boost cooperation with nations in the Pacific, the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit was held in September 2006.
It is thus natural for Taiwan to build on its links with Africa. Taiwan seeks not only to cooperate through official channels, but also welcomes the opportunity to communicate with the various NGOs that will take part in the summit and its related activities.
In seeking to forge partnerships with Africa, Taiwan is also committed to helping African nations reach the U.N. MDGs, despite its exclusion from the United Nations.
Taiwan will work with its African friends as partners to draw up development action plans that best suit African needs. Together, we will find solutions to Africa's problems, and Taiwan will offer all the assistance it can in a spirit of friendship.
Ours is a partnership of progress, development, and peace. This is our commitment to the African people and our pledge to the international community.
Jhy-wey Shieh is minister of the Government Information Office in Taiwan.