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  • Office of the President announces President Ma to visit African allies starting April 7
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A press conference was held at the Office of the President on the morning of March 14 to announce that President Ma Ying-jeou will lead a delegation on a 12-day visit to four African allies of the ROC next month. The trip, which is scheduled to start on April 7 and conclude on April 18, will see the president make stops in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Kingdom of Swaziland. Presidential Office Deputy Spokesperson Li Jia-fei (李佳霏) presided over the press conference, with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳) introducing the president's planned itinerary.

Vice Minister Shen remarked that this will be the first time President Ma has led a delegation to Africa since taking office in May 2008. He said that the trip is in response to the enthusiastic invitations extended by the ROC's African diplomatic allies. Aimed at building mutual understanding and strengthening bilateral friendship, it will include visits to the various cooperation projects between the ROC and its allies to examine their progress. The president will also review the results of the execution of the ROC's "viable diplomacy" by its representation throughout Africa.

Vice Minister Shen stated that the upcoming trip has been named Project Benevolence and Friendship, based on the desire to express concern for our allies in the region and solidify the ROC's friendship with them. An airliner has been chartered to take the delegation on the entire journey. Among those joining President Ma will be Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Chin-tien Yang (楊進添), senior officials from various government agencies responsible for cooperation projects with the African allies, lawmakers, members of the media, and a performance troop of students from National Taiwan University of Arts.

Vice Minister Shen explained that the first stop in Africa will be Burkina Faso. The ROC and Burkina Faso established diplomatic relations 18 years ago and the two sides maintain a close and friendly relationship. Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré has visited Taiwan nine times, and the two countries maintain cooperation in the fields of agriculture, medicine and health, and education. At present, important projects being carried out include vocational training and work to enhance Burkina Faso's abilities in healthcare management and upland rice farming.

After Burkina Faso, the president will lead the delegation to The Gambia. The ROC and The Gambia resumed diplomatic relations in 1995 , and the two nations have enjoyed a close and friendly cooperative relationship since, Vice Minister Shen said. President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh has visited Taiwan on eight occasions, and each time has enthusiastically invited the ROC head of state to visit his nation. The two countries currently have cooperation projects in agricultural technology, medical care, education and training, and infrastructure. During his visit, President Ma will inaugurate an information center at the University of The Gambia and will also make a tour of the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital , that nation's main health facility.

The third stop on the itinerary will be Sao Tome and Principe. The ROC and that nation established diplomatic relations 15 years ago and the relationship between the two sides is also a close one, featuring frequent interaction. In particular, the ROC has provided Sao Tome and Principe assistance in malaria prevention, thereby significantly reducing the incidence of malaria in that nation. The accomplishments resulting from the assistance provided by the ROC have been recognized and praised by the people of Sao Tome and Principe and the international community. During this trip, President Ma will gain a firsthand understanding of the state of the Malaria Eradication Project that is being carried out with the assistance of the ROC. He will also visit a national high school and a thermal power plant that were constructed with assistance from the ROC.

The final stop on the trip will be the Kingdom of Swaziland. Diplomatic relations between the two nations date back 44 years, with the two establishing formal ties shortly after Swaziland gained its independence in 1968. His Majesty King Mswati III has visited Taiwan 12 times, Vice Minister Shen said, adding that the two nations presently have cooperation projects in the fields of medical care, agricultural technology, and vocational training. On this visit, President Ma will visit a hospital that a medical mission from the ROC is helping to operate. He will also take a look at the state of garment factories in Swaziland that have been established by Taiwan companies, and will have a meal with overseas compatriots in Swaziland, as well as representatives of Taiwan companies operating in that nation, Vice Minister Shen stated.

Vice Minister Shen commented that in an effort to promote cultural exchanges between the ROC and Africa, a performance troupe of students from National Taiwan University of Arts will join the trip and perform in each nation. The troupe will be led by the university’s vice president Nancy Chih-Kuan Lan (藍姿寬), and the theme of the performances will be "Taiwan Style." The performances will combine elements of Taiwanese traditional dances, such as a chariot and drum parade , Hakka arts, Taiwanese folk music, and aboriginal dance. The performances will also feature new compositions and choreography in an effort to display Taiwan's cultural diversity, as well as a dynamic aesthetic created by the integration of the traditional and the contemporary. Vice Minister Shen stated that this visit to Africa by the president and the delegation will further solidify the friendship between the ROC and its four African allies and promote bilateral cooperation and interaction.
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