Former Japanese international football player advocates for African development

13 Feb 2008

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Hidetoshi Nakata, Former Japanese international football player is visiting a number of African Countries including Rwanda to deepen his understanding of African development challenges and the collective response by the United Nations. The former football star wants to contribute to the promotion of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) to be held in Tokyo, Japan on 28-30 May 2008.
 
"I welcome Nakata’s visit to the Millennium Project. It is a symbol of how much he supports the development work of the United Nations. I am confident that his visit will help mobilize people on achieving the MDGs in Africa and in Rwanda in particular", said Safiou Esso Ouro-Doni, UNDP Deputy Country Director.
“I hope that his message will reach out to as many people as possible and that concerted efforts by both the international community and the communities will lead to the attainment of the MDGs in Africa and in Rwanda in particular. The UN in Rwanda is committed to a continued partnership with the Government of Rwanda and development partners to work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals”, he added.

The TICAD IV mobilizes knowledge and resources of the international community in the core areas of boosting Economic Growth, ensuring Human Security including achieving MDGs and consolidation of peace, and addressing environment/climate change issues. In order to strengthen the recent positive trends in Africa in both political and economic areas, the international community will discuss concrete initiatives under the theme “Towards a Vibrant Africa: Continent of Hope and Opportunity.”
The objectives of TICAD are two-fold: to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and their partners; and to mobilize support for African-owned development initiatives. These objectives are embodied in the concept of "ownership" and "partnership".

During his visit to Rwanda, the soccer star will visit the Millennium Village Project in Mayange where he will interact with the local communities. He will visit the Mayange health center, the Mayange Primary School and a women basket weaving cooperative.
The site of Mayange was identified in 2005 by a 7 ministries task force to serve as the Millennium Village. It operates under the leadership of Rwanda and advised by Columbia University’s Earth Institute. The project aims at achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Mayange Sector within 5 years and simultaneously seeks to expand adoption of MDG interventions to other areas in the country. The project began with a population of 5,000 people. An intensive baseline survey was carried out and the findings were used to form the interventions implemented. Based on the success achieved, similar interventions have been rolled out to a catchment area with a population of 24,000. A total target of 50,000 is to benefit from the project. The Government of Rwanda appreciated the approach of this project as a way to target the extreme poverty and has decided to scale it up through one of the programs called ‘Vision 2020 Umurenge’. This programme will target 600,000 people.
The Millennium Promise through UNDP contributes USD 750,000 per year to the project and has made a commitment to raise that contribution to USD 3.5 million per year pending the success of their fundraising efforts and justification of need from the project.

Nakata is planning to organize an international football match in Japan immediately after the Conference and to invite African Children on that occasion.
The 31 years old Japanese international midfielder has played in various teams in Europe and Japan. These include Parma A.C. ( Italy, 2001 - 2004), Bologna F.C. ( Italy), A.C. Perugia ( Italy), A.S. Roma ( Italy), ACF Fiorentina ( Italy), Belmare Hiratsuka ( Japan) and Bolton Wanderers ( United Kingdom). The former Japan international hung up his boots after the 2006 World Cup.