The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Korea-Africa Summit

Korea, African nations agree to open critical minerals dialogue, enhance cooperation

By Korea Herald

Published : June 6, 2024 - 05:28

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The Korea-Africa Summit wrapped up its two-day schedule Wednesday, marking a major step forward in strengthening economic and diplomatic cooperation between South Korea and 48 African nations.

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday hosted the main session of the first-ever summit with African delegations at Kintex in Gyeonggi Province, where the leaders adopted a joint declaration aimed at promoting trade and investment as well as collaborating on critical minerals and development projects.

Notably, the leaders agreed to kick off a high-level critical mineral dialogue to ensure a steady supply chain that is critical for semiconductors, batteries and renewable energy products.

At a time when Africa’s importance grows as a key region for critical mineral reserves, the Korea-Africa Critical Minerals Dialogue will “serve as an important institutional foundation for enhancing cooperation between Korea and Africa,” the joint declaration said.

“The launch of the Korea-Africa Critical Minerals Dialogue will be the world's exemplary case of sustainable development by seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and stability in the industrial supply chain,” Yoon said at a press conference Tuesday.

The launch of the mineral dialogue meets the needs of Korea as well as African nations. With trade conflicts often disrupting supply chains, Korea needs a reliable supply chain of critical minerals that are used for producing its key export products such as chips, automobiles and secondary batteries. The expanded trade with Korea is also expected to help African countries to revitalize their local economies.

It is also meaningful that the Korean government has promised to seek “tailored development cooperation” by expanding its official development assistance to $10 billion to Africa by 2030. Seoul also pledged to offer export finance of some $14 billion through 2030 in a bid to help Korean companies’ trade and investment in Africa.

Yoon, who held bilateral talks with African heads of state on the sidelines of the summit, said Wednesday the envisioned critical mineral partnership with African nations will take form in a “mutually beneficial way,” stressing the principle of cooperation and Korea’s commitment.

Korea’s efforts to accelerate cooperation with African nations in trade and investment are long overdue. Africa, with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, has emerged as a significant unified market boasting a GDP of $3.4 trillion and a population of 1.4 billion. Africa is also referred to as the youngest continent in the world due to its significant youth demographic, and its rich resources are gaining the global spotlight.

For Korea, which imports about 95 percent of its industrial minerals and relies heavily on countries such as China, Africa offers a crucial opportunity for strategic partnership.

However, trade between Korea and African nations has long been slow, accounting for just 1.9 percent of the country’s total trade. This low figure stands in sharp contrast to the brisk investments made by the US, EU, China and Japan in the African markets.

Amid the intensifying competition over supply chains and resources for advanced industries, the summit marks not only Africa’s strategic importance but also Korea’s much-needed shift in focus toward Africa to diversify its economic and diplomatic partnerships.

Korea is also required to expand and strengthen its diplomatic ties with African countries. The African Union consists of 55 member states, accounting for nearly 28 percent of the United Nations’ overall membership. This illustrates Africa’s growing influence on the global stage. In an era where global dynamics shift rapidly, Korea’s dependence on existing alliances is not enough to safeguard the country’s national interests and deal with new geopolitical conflicts.

The Korea-Africa Summit marks the biggest multilateral event hosted by the Yoon administration, which pushes for a “global pivotal state” as its vision of the country. It is hoped that the summit will serve as a critical turning point to promote partnerships with African nations and achieve Korea’s new vision.