Visible bilateral gains in South Korea-Africa Summit

DAR ES SALAAM: IN early June this year, a great event is going to be held in Seoul, South Korea, during a summit convened, to discuss, among other things, a roadmap for strategic cooperation between South Korea and Africa.

The meeting is substantiated by the theme of the Summit: ‘The Future We Make Together: Shared Growth, Sustainability, and Solidarity’ and is expected to host a good number of leaders from Africa.

The prioritised collaboration areas expected include boosting trade and investment, addressing global challenges, sustainable energy and infrastructure. Others are development of human resources including TVET; science, technology and digital transformation, promoting people to people exchanges, and achieving peace and security.

According to Tanzania’s Ambassador to Korea, Mr Togolani Mavura, the summit is expected to bring together leaders, policy makers, academia, and private sector, whereby through special sessions and networking platforms leaders will provide commitment and assured support towards deepening economic cooperation between the two sides.

In an exclusive interview recently, Ambassador Mavura said increased trade and investment opportunities shall be discussed during the summit, to provide an institutional support and framework in PublicPrivate Partnership (PPP), and Financing Modalities (Soft Loans and Grants).”

During the Summit, Korea expects to launch Official Negotiations for the first ever FTA/EPA with African countries, Tanzania included, because, currently, out of its 21 FTAs with 27 countries, none is with African countries,” he said.

He adds that this initiative is expected to reverse the current status, where Africa constitutes only one per cent of Korean trade with the rest of the world, and it will also enable countries like Tanzania to export their agricultural and fisheries produce direct to Korea, instead of going via other countries, such as Vietnam, China, and India.

Ambassador Mavura says that the Summit is also aimed at securing a global supply chain for the critical minerals (graphite, lithium, manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt, REE etc.), that form key components in electric vehicles batteries, and other technologies.

The resource rich countries like Tanzania, he affirms, are expected to benefit in areas such as incoming investments, capacity building, technology transfer, infrastructure development, and employment opportunities right after the Summit.

He adds that the meeting is another opportunity to explore beyond the traditional trade and investment avenues, since Korea has been successful in promoting its K-Content (K-Movies, K-Drama, K-Pop) worldwide, and it would be ideal to link the same with African Art, Music, and African Movies.

“Some of the reasons for low presence of Korean businesses in Africa include misconception that Africa is a country, a far, riskier, and small market. This will be another opportunity to guide on the Africa’s diversities, its rich resources, and extensive market (AfCFTA with 1.3 billion people and combined GDP worth 3.4 trillion US dollars),” says Ambassador Mavura.

The ambassador remains optimistic that through bilateral meeting, he expects leaders in attendance to seek cooperation in specific areas such as financing priority projects, opening doors for employment opportunities as Korea is facing labor shortage, and skills building and technology transfer.

According to Minister, President’s Office, Planning and Investment Professor Kitila Mkumbo, the forthcoming Korea-Africa is a great opportunity for Tanzania to bolster and affirm its desire to strengthen the investment relationship between the two countries.

“Our expectation is that the Summit will usher into a new era of Korea-Africa economic relations and Tanzania expects more access to its agricultural products pertaining with Korean critical minerals that Tanzania is endowed with,” he says.

Professor Mkumbo adds that Korea companies are welcome to Tanzania to exploit strategic geographical position as a launch pad for Korea’s industries to produce locally and reach out to the vast Africa market through The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA).

According to Zanzibar’s Minister for Trade and Infrastructure Development, Mr Omar Said Shaaban, the expected June Africa-Korea Summit shall open trade and investment opportunities to many African countries which fortunately have a lot of untaped natural resources.

“Africa has shown remarkable resilience in the face of multiple global crises. It is rich in critical minerals and it expects to enter into cooperation and bilateral aimed at helping its people,” he says.

According to Mr Shaaban, African countries should make strides in expanding cooperative ties between them and Korea, and there is a need for mutual beneficial and sustainable cooperation with Korea.

He adds that Tanzania can seek development experiences from Korea and this dynamism can be very beneficial to the growth of its economy and expand exchanges between the companies of Africa and Korea, thus boosting trade and investment.

According to him, Tanzania can formulate the development cooperation initiative with Korea, which will bring about tremendous advances in its capacity in climate and digital transition, food, energy and youth technology innovation.

“Tanzania should seek to be largest trading Korea partner on the continent and eventually become hubs for logistics and gateway to expand cooperation with the rest of Africa” he says, adding that the two countries can strengthen the close ties through collaboration in trade.

Reached for comment, Business Management lecturer at Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT), Dr Laurent Masui says that the Korea-Africa Summit is of great importance in advancing economic opportunities between the two sides.

“Tanzania in particular has a lot to gain from Korea in terms of Agriculture, Information Technology, and blue economy and our local experts in these areas should carefully make a follow up and make sure they advise the government accordingly on how to take part in this summit.

He says that Tanzania can develop its education skills, given her history and geographical location and learn from Korea which has developed high discipline and skilled labor force through learning.

Dr Masui is confident that Industries could be developed in Tanzania using the Korean improved technology, siting procurement of Korean electrical locomotives and wagons to build ship on Lake Victoria using materials and parts from Korea.

The relationship between Korea and Africa is traced back in early 1960’s when 6 African countries started diplomatic relations with Korea. To date, out of 26 African countries that have diplomatic relations with Korea, only 21 have their residence in Seoul.

Ambassador Innocent Shiyo, Tanzania’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) says that except for the recent years, most of the global bilateral relations have been on high level exchanges and government to government undertakings, and the world has witnessed broadened cooperation that include people to people exchanges.

“It is also important to underscore the fact that although Korea has become Asia as well as global player in key sectors. Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia, and tenth in the world.

It is the fifth Maritime power, the fifth largest exporter, and the eighth largest importer worldwide. There is no way we can escape it in bilateral trades,” says Ambassador Shiyo. However, he says, its engagement with Africa is very minimal, by size and scale, compared to the actual potential.

Today, Africa’s share of Korea’s trade is less than one percent. Korea has been named a “miraculous country”, due to its exponential development trajectory that transformed the country from poor to a donor country within a span of four-five decades.

Backed with technological strength and expertise in key sectors such as ship building, infrastructure, ICT, car manufacturing, there is no doubt Korea’s experience is worth emulating, says Ambassador Shiyo says. Given the unprecedented global challenges the world has been facing in recent times, he adds, both sides have seen the need to establish more strategic partnership, which would be mutually beneficial, long-term, and more sustainable.

This initiative complements both the African Union Agenda 2063 and Korea’s initiative to emerge as a Global Pivotal State (GPS) for the contribution of Freedom, Prosperity, and peace around the world.

The Chairperson of Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF) Mr Deodatus Balile advises the Korean Embassy in Dar es Salaam to collaborate closely with the Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to support journalists wishing to travel to Seoul to cover this meeting.

“There is a need to dispatch journalists from Africa to cover this meeting in Seoul, simply because academicians and business people from Africa need to be informed about the summit, before they start rolling plans on how to tap opportunities available in Korea” he says.

He adds that for the Summit to bear the expected results, print, electronic and social media in Tanzania should have a selected team of journalists to attend the Summit, and later come to run series of feature and tv programmes in the local media outlets.

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