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Korea cements ties with African nations in key mineral supply chains

Yoon banks on Africa's youngest population, abundant resources

June 4, 2024 - 17:56 By Park Han-na
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (ninth from left in the front row) poses for a photo with African leaders at the 2024 South Korea-Africa Summit held at Korea International Exhibition Center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. (From left in first row) Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina; Zimbabwean President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa; Comorian President Azali Assoumani; Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi; Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé; Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki; King Mswati III of Eswatini; Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani; Yoon; African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat; Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; Rwanda president Paul Kagame; Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara; Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra; Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo; Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi; and Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio. (From left in the middle row) Speaker of the House of Representatives of Morocco Rachid Talbi Alami; Somalian Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre; Benin’s Vice President Mariam Chabi Talata; Djiboutian Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed; Lesotho Prime Minister Ntsokoane Sam Matekane; Cabo Verdean President José Maria Neves; Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan; Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embaló; Mauritius President Prithvirajsing Roopun; Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan; São Tomé and Príncipe President Carlos Vila Nova; Kenyan President William Ruto; Liberian President Joseph Boakai; Malawian Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima; Ugandan Vice President Jessica Alupo Epel; Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar; and Libyan Presidential Council Vice President Musa Al-Koni. (From left in the third row) African Continental Free Trade Area Secretary-General Wamkele Keabetswe Mene; Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador to South Korea Atoki Ileka; Burundi Ambassador to China Télesphore Irambona, South Sudan Foreign Minister Ramadan Mohamed Abdallah Goc; Namibian International relations minister Peya Mushelenga; Nigerian Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar; Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf; Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat; Cameroonian Foreign Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella; Gambian Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara; Congolese Minister of International Cooperation Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso; Angola's Minister of State for Economic Coordination Jose de Lima Massano; Chadian presidency's secretary general Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo; Senegalese Foreign Minister Yacine Fall; Zambia's acting Foreign Minister Mulambo Haimbe; South African Ambassador to Korea Zenani Nosizwe Dlamini; African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina; and Raji Tajudeen, the acting deputy director-general of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (Yonhap)

South Korea and African nations have pledged to intensify cooperation for enhanced trading while supporting Africa's path for shaping a future of sustainable co-prosperity.

The 2024 South Korea-Africa Summit, the inaugural summit between Korea and 48 African countries, kicked off in Seoul on Tuesday.

“Africa is young, dynamic and affluent with resources while Korea has high technology and a variety of experience… We will bring the strengths of each other together and discover a sustainable resolution,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said while delivering opening remarks.

The summit meetings come amid Africa’s increasing strategic significance, with abundant natural resources needed for producing next-generation batteries like cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel and graphite.

Despite Africa's strong economic potential, with its growth rate of 3.2 percent, exceeding the global average of 2.9 percent last year, cooperation between Korea and Africa has remained weak.

Africa's share of Korea's trade volume was only 1.3 percent in 2023 and Africa accounted for 0.5 percent of Korea's global direct investment volume in the same year.

On the occasion of the summit talks, President Yoon pushed for forging economic partnership agreements that aim to establish a mutually beneficial trade network among partner nations beyond merely opening markets.

The Trade and Investment Promotion Framework is another agreement that Korea is pursuing to sign with them to pave the way to expand bilateral trade and investment.

Yoon pledged to support the African Continental Free Trade Area, which facilitates intra-African trade by creating a liberalized, single market for goods and services.

On Monday, Yoon held talks with leaders of 11 African nations -- Lesotho, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Togo, Rwanda, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde on Monday. He had summit meetings with his Sierra Leone counterpart on May 31 and leaders of Tanzania and Ethiopia on Sunday.

Yoon and the president of Cote d'Ivoire promised to push for the swift signing of a Trade and Investment Promotion Framework, treaties for the prevention of double taxation, investment protection agreements and a defense industry cooperation MOU between the two countries.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that he is pleased about the country’s participation in the "K-Rice Belt" project -- official development assistance initiated by the Korean government to develop high-yield rice varieties targeting African countries -- and supports the improvement of rice productivity by comprehensively supporting seed distribution and technical education.

“Koreans were the Asians who visited Zimbabwe the most before the spread of COVID-19,” Yoon said. “We look forward to revitalizing economic exchanges between the two countries in various fields, including key minerals.”

At the meeting with Rwanda President Paul Kagame, it was decided to revitalize exchanges between experts and companies from both countries through an MOU on smart city infrastructure and mobility cooperation.

During the Sunday meeting with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the two leaders declared the launching of an economic partnership agreement, marking the first African nation to do so. They signed memoranda of understanding on critical minerals in the supply chain as well as concerning the marine and fisheries fields.

Hailing the inaugural talks for this economic agreement with Tanzania, Yoon said he expects growth in trade items and volume between the two countries once the deal concludes.

To bolster cooperation with the continent, Korean companies should tap into sectors that lead Africa’s growth such as manufacturing, mineral, energy and startups tied to information communication technology and green technology, the Federation of Korean Industries, which consists of Korea's business leaders, said on Tuesday.

“Africa’s supply chain cooperation in eco-friendly industries like electric vehicles will become more important as the continent produces more than 60 percent of the world’s cobalt and 70 percent of the world’s platinum,” the FKI said in a report.

Africa’s plant market is now recovering from a sluggish stage in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could give traction to resource development and export activities.

“With Africa’s mobile market seeing rapid uptake, the ecosystem for ICT startups has grown at a fast clip. … ICT has formed a new industry by taking a leap from its limitations of insufficient social infrastructure,” it said.