The Korea Herald


Korea, Africa set the stage for shared growth, sustainability

President Yoon vows to dial up trade and investment, shrink economic distance with African nations

By Park Han-na

Published : June 5, 2024 - 16:01

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from left) and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (left), chairperson of the African Union, attend during the 2024 Korea-Africa Business Summit at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from left) and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (left), chairperson of the African Union, attend during the 2024 Korea-Africa Business Summit at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Business leaders and government officials from South Korea and African nations gathered to fortify practical cooperation involving complementary skills and resources to enrich their decadeslong friendship.

Some 400 people took part in the 2024 Korea-Africa Business Summit in Seoul on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Korea-Africa Summit being attended by delegations from 48 African nations, including 25 heads of state.

Under the theme “The future we make together: Shared growth, sustainability and solidarity,” the event served as an arena for bolstering potential business partnerships between firms from the two sides.

President Yoon Suk Yeol touted Africa’s population of over 1.4 billion, abundant reserves of natural resources and African nations’ desire for economic development that drives their economies to move forward.

“In the face of complex global crises, mutual solidarity and cooperation have become more important than ever. As global supply chain uncertainty increases due to geopolitical risks, Africa's role is receiving great attention,” Yoon said in his keynote speech.

He added that he hoped to boost resource cooperation with African nations by forging partnerships for critical minerals and through the Minerals Security Partnership, a US-led partnership to secure the supply chains of critical minerals. Korea is one of 15 MSP members. None of the African countries has joined the initiative.

On Tuesday, Korea and African nations agreed to launch a bilateral dialogue on critical minerals needed for the development of future industries such as electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energy.

To increase the scale of trade and investment between the two sides, institutional frameworks will be strengthened by signing Economic Partnership Agreements and Trade and Investment Promotion Frameworks to support companies’ active business engagement, he said.

Tanzania declared it would open talks on an EPA with Korea while Morocco agreed on an EPA negotiation system to bring about comprehensive cooperation including in areas of supply chains, digital and green economy and market opening. Eight countries, including Ghana, Malawi, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, signed a nonbinding TIPE to establish a customized economic cooperation platform. Unlike a free trade agreement, it seeks to deepen practical industrial relations, excluding tariff negotiations.

The president expressed gratitude for the entrepreneurial spirit of businesspeople, which has become a valuable foundation for the Korea-Africa partnership since Korea established diplomatic ties with six African countries in 1961.

Korea's current trade with Africa accounts for just 1.9 percent of the nation's total trade, which the Korean government intends to boost with the signing of a total of 47 agreements and 34 memorandums of understanding with 23 African nations on energy, mineral mining, manufacturing and infrastructure on the occasion of the African delegation’s visit.

Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, chair of the African Union and president of Mauritania, said Korea can be the ideal strategic partner for investments and partnerships that capitalize on Africa's vast opportunities.

“Africa looks forward to strengthening its relationship with Korea in key areas and welcomes initiatives aimed at supporting infrastructure development in Africa, promoting trade, encouraging investment, combating climate change and promoting sustainable development,” he said.

The Mauritania president selected the agricultural sector and digital economy as areas where Korean companies could seize opportunities when entering the African market.

The event consisted of four sessions, encompassing industrialization and investment revitalization, ways to increase trade and job creation, strengthening food and core mineral security and decarbonization and responding to climate change in Korea and Africa.

During his opening remarks, Yoon Jin-sik, chair of the Korea International Trade Association, a key trade organization and the event's co-host, said that Korea and Africa have reached “the optimal time to grow together through mutual cooperation.”

As global demand concerning carbon neutrality and the climate crisis response grow, Africa has the potential to lead the green hydrogen market based on its abundant renewable energy, he said. “Korea will be able to materialize sustainable development together with Africa based on its experience in power and energy investment.”

Attendees from the African side include: Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina and Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

From the Korean side, Industry Minister Ahn Duk-Geun, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Chung Euisun, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and Poongsan Group Chairman Ryu Jin, who doubles as the head of the Federation of Korean Industries, participated in the event.

During the two-day inaugural Korea-Africa Summit, the Korean government pledged to expand its official development assistance to $10 billion through 2030 as a catalyst for projects for cooperation with African nations. It also promised to provide $14 billion of export financing to help Korean firms boost trade and investment activities in the African market.