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[Africa Forum] Trade minister calls for elevating economic ties with Africa

May 26, 2024 - 16:00 By Park Han-na
Trade Minister Cheong In-kyo delivers his celebratory speech at the Africa Day Business Forum held at the Swiss Grand Hotel Seoul on Thursday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

The South Korean trade minister stressed the need to diversify economic relations with African nations into high-tech and service sectors by taking the upcoming Korea-Africa Summit as a chance to pave the way for a new era.

“Now is the time for Korea to actively engage in trade and investment with Africa,” Trade Minister Cheong In-kyo said Thursday while delivering his celebratory speech at the Africa Day Business Forum co-hosted by The Korea Herald and the African Group of Ambassadors held in Seoul.

“There is a need to expand from trade centered on consumer goods and raw materials to high value-added products and services, and to diversify and expand local investment into future industries such as high-tech industries and clean energy along with supply chain cooperation,” the minister said.

Since establishing diplomatic relations with Cote d'Ivoire in 1961, Korea and African countries have maintained close relations built on strong historical ties and shared values for over 60 years.

“Korean conglomerates and small and medium-sized companies have entered the African market to conduct business activities in various fields such as agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, and service, contributing to local employment and income growth,” he said.

Cheong took the example of Kazungula Bridge, which crosses the Zambezi River connecting Botswana and Zambia, undertaken and completed by Korean builder Daewoo Engineering & Construction in 2020, as a successful infrastructure project.

Despite decades-long efforts to expand economic cooperation on bilateral and multilateral levels, "Africa's current share of Korea's foreign trade and overseas investment is less than 2 percent,” the minister said.

He highlighted the economic potential of the African continent, which showed a growth rate of 3.2 percent, exceeding the global average of 2.9 percent last year.

The continent offers vast investment opportunities with the world’s youngest population, abundant resources and the formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which facilitates intra-African trade by creating a liberalized, single market for goods and services.

In this respect, the 2024 Korea-Africa Summit, set for June 4-5 in Seoul, is “very timely and meaningful,” he said as their consultative body will be elevated to the summit level from the ministerial level through the event.

"To strengthen the foundation for economic cooperation with Africa, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will work on the conclusion of the Trade and Investment Promotion Framework and the Economic Partnership Agreement during the African leaders’ visit to Korea," he added.