Tokyo — More than twenty African leaders gathered this week in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, for the third conference in ten years on development cooperation and partnership between Japan and the continent.
The Malian president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was attending the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad). He is a firm supporter of the Japanese and made plain those sentiments in an interview with the BBC's Said Penda and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton of allAfrica.com.
Mali has a partnership with Japan going back many years and readily promotes bilateral cooperation with Tokyo, as well as broader links between Japan and Africa.
Amadou Toumani Toure, your cooperation with Japan started long before you became Mali's elected head of state last year. How would you characterise the nature of this collaboration?
I'd say first of all that the main feature of the cooperation with the Japanese is their efficiency. But they are also discreet, inquisitive and pragmatic. Mali has exemplary cooperation from the Japanese in practically all the domains you can think of. But one that stands out is food security. This year, with all the difficulties we have had in the Sahel, Japan has played a key role, a very important role, not only with the emergency assistance that it offered, but also helping us and giving us aid and visibility to showcase agriculture.
I think that efficiency and pragmatism are the main characteristics of the Japanese in our relationship.
But President Toure, what does Japan get in return? Surely there isn't any sort of aid without strings...
It's a matter of options and choices. Think about it. The Japanese themselves say it, and it's one of the most important things about Japan, that they are one of the leading global industrial powers, yet they have no obvious natural resources compared with other countries. So they rely on capacity, on their human resources and human potential which is hugely important.
I think that, today, Japan needs Africa. They don't have natural resources. We do - we have a lot. So I think the partnership between Africa and Japan that we see under Ticad - and this current conference is the third match, if you want to put it that way - proves that everyone seems to be thinking the same way.
If you count the number of African heads of state here in Tokyo - and the past ten years of Ticad, its tenth anniversary and Japanese cooperation with Africa - then I think you have the proof. If it wasn't working, then I think we would have stopped by now and we wouldn't be here.
But, of course, Japan is quietly lobbying for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council isn't it? So they do have some interests in wooing African leaders don't they? They are looking for your support, which means there are underlying interests underpinning Japanese aid to Africa.
But Japan does deserve a Security Council seat. How can we be here looking at the industrial might of Japan in this day and age and yet it's not a member of the council? I think it's fundamentally a political desire first for the Japanese, but also I feel that, one day, Japan must take its rightful place among the world leaders at the UN. It's already there, if you're talking about industry on the world stage, why not on the UN stage? As far as we're concerned, we wish Japan the best in its endeavours.