South Korea Seeks Closer Ties With Africa with First Korea-Africa Summit

The 1st South Korea – Africa Summit (SKAS2024) took place in Seoul from 4 to 5 June 2024. The theme for the maiden edition was “The Future We Make Together: Shared Growth, Sustainability, and Solidarity.”

For this first edition, it is reported that representatives of 48 African countries were in attendance, of which 25 were represented at the highest level with either the head of state or government in attendance.

South Korean was represented by its President YOON Suk Yeol. On the other side, the African continent was led by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould GHAZOUANI since Mauritania currently holds the rotating chair of the African Union (#AU). Both leaders co-chaired the plenary sessions.

Group Photo of 1st South Korea - Africa Summit 2024
Group Photo of 1st South Korea – Africa Summit 2024

Currently, trade with Africa accounts for just 2% of South Korean imports and exports. Thus, South Korean President YOON Suk Yeol vowed to boost trade and investment while expanding development aid to Africa.

In particular, South Korea endeavors to deepen cooperation in the area of #CriticalMinerals. An MOU christened ‘Key Minerals Cooperation Partnership’ was circulated to provide guidelines for a path to Local Value Addition (#LVA).

#CriticalMinerals are key to the South Korean auto and electronics industry. Korean car makers Hyundai and Kia rank as the world 4th and 7th largest global auto manufacturers by revenue based on 2023 figures. On the other hand, Samsung is the world’s 2nd mobile phone brand, right behind Apple.

Needless to say that with the irreversible trend towards #EV, #lithium and other #CriticalMinerals are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, President Yoon proposed the setting up of a #CriticalMinerals Dialogue between South Korea and Africa to support the growth of the #EV industry.

“The Critical Minerals Dialogue launched by South Korea and Africa will set an example for a stable supply chain through mutually beneficial cooperation and contribute to sustainable development of mineral resources around the world.”

South Korean President YOON Suk Yeol

South Korea also plans to budget some USD 10 billion in official development aid (ODA) to Africa over the next six years until 2030. Another USD 14 billion is earmarked to foster trade and investment for South Korean companies working with Africa.

In that regard, South Korea wishes to sign Economic Partnership Agreements (#EPA) and Trade and Investment Promotion Frameworks (#TIFP) with African states. Thus, South Korea has already signed #TIPF with several countries such as Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone with many more under negotiation.

South Korea is also eager to partner with Africa in the area of #SmartAgriculture in a bid to reinforce #FoodSecurity, while facing challenges caused by #ClimateChange.

Roundtable at South Korea - Africa Summit 2024
Roundtable at South Korea – Africa Summit 2024

On his part, Rwandan President Kagame pointed out that just as South Korea’s foreign policy is to position the country as a “Global Pivotal State“, Africa can also be qualified as a “Global Pivotal Continent”.

Africans recognize South Korea as a technology giant with global brands such as Samsung and LG. In that line, the #Tech4Africa initiative was announced and aims to enhance capacity building for the youth of Africa in adopting and developing innovative technologies.

In the margins of the Summit, President Yoon held bilateral meetings with the delegations of the 25 countries led by heads of state or government. The Korea EXIM Bank signed two deals worth USD 238 million to fund the Konza Digital Media City in Kenya. As part of the agreement, South Korea will support Kenya to “establish a cutting-edge film and creative economy hub.”

Of the numerous deals announced, it is worth noting that Korea will provide concessional loans of USD 2.5 billion and USD 1 billion to Tanzania and Ethiopia respectively. The cooperation areas are quite diverse and include infrastructure, urban development, smart cities, intelligent transportation systems, health, #digitalization as well as science and technology.

Former South Korean ambassador to South Africa PARK Jong Dae believes both the Western and Chinese models of development have failed Africa. South Korea is thus putting forward an alternative paradigm which is rooted in human development, good governance, and ‘shared growth’, as emphasized in the theme of this Summit.

This Africa-South Korea was long overdue and is most welcome. Before disbanding, the leaders agreed to hold the South Korea – Africa Summit (#SKAS2024) at least once every five years.