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S. Korea, Africa bolster ties for growth

Top policymakers gather in Busan to attend the KOAFEC Ministerial Conference

Sept. 13, 2023 - 15:47 By Im Eun-byel
Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho (front, seventh from right) poses for photos along with the African delegations at the 2023 Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Ministerial Conference, at the Ananti Hilton in Busan, Wednesday. (Ministry of Economy and Finance)

Economy-related public officials from South Korea and Africa gathered in Busan to attend the 7th Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Ministerial Conference, discussing ways to bolster the economic cooperation between two entities and explore new business opportunities.

The event, organized by the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), South Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Export-Import Bank of Korea, kicked off on Tuesday in the southern port city of Busan. The four-day event will run until Friday.

Held under the theme, “Embracing a Sustainable Future: Just Energy Transition and Agricultural Transformation in Africa,” this year, the event sheds light on the issues of low-carbon energy transition and food security in Africa, and Korea's place in both areas.

"If the advanced tech industry of Korea and the growth potential of Africa are combined, it will be powerful solidarity that will lead the recovery of the world,” Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said in his opening speech for a round table meeting for ministers on Wednesday.

Choo pointed out the escalated uncertainty of the world economy following the pandemic, slow economic growth and the expansion of protectionism are holding back the growth of both Korea and Africa.

To overcome the hurdles, he suggested the “ABC principles” for cooperation, which stand for agricultural transformation, bio health, climate change and the energy transition. Choo explained South Korea can help Africa by sharing its agricultural technologies, building healthcare infrastructure and cooperating on energy projects.

Choo further called for support for Busan’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. Busan is hoping to hold the global event, while Rome and Riyadh, the capital cities of Italy and Saudi Arabia, are the other candidates.

In November, member states of the Bureau International des Expositions, the international body in charge of running the event, will vote to elect the host country.

“The 2030 Busan Expo, with the slogan of ‘Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future,’ offers a vision of building sustainable life with nature, developing technology for humanity, being a place for caring and sharing,” Choo said.

"Please support Busan, so that the cooperation between Korea and Africa can take another leap," he said.

The top policymaker met with his counterparts from major nations in Africa, including those from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Rwanda.

Choo also signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with Rwanda. Statistics Korea signed a memorandum of understanding with the AfDB, promising future cooperation.

At the event, Choo and Akinwumi Adesina, head of the AfDB, signed the agreement for the Korea-AfDB trust. Adesina thanked Choo for allowing additional funding for the trust, according to the Finance Ministry.

"Korea hopes to contribute for the sustainable growth and development of Africa, supporting Adesina's strategy, which includes the core agenda for the cause," Choo said.

On Thursday, the event is to discuss how Korea and Africa can cooperate in the private sector, including ways Korean businesses can take part in projects happening on the continent. It will wrap up on Friday with the participants visiting the site for the World Expo 2030, promoting Busan's bid for the event.

Started in 2006, the biennial KOAFEC meeting aims to cement Korea’s support to the development of the African continent through enhancing bilateral cooperation. This year’s event is the first in-person meeting to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AfDB, established in 1964, aims to contribute to the economic and social development of Africa. South Korea joined the organization in 1984.