Trade between South Korea and Africa was worth 20.2 billion dollars in 2022, while Korean investment in infrastructure on the African continent is estimated at an average of 700 million dollars a year. Not enough, according to the two parties who met in Seoul on 4 and 5 June 2024 for the Korea-Africa Summit. The meeting ended with a pledge to invest $14 billion in the exploitation of strategic minerals and the transfer of technology.

“The future we build together: shared growth, sustainability and solidarity”. This was the theme of the first ever Korea-Africa Summit, held on 4 and 5 June 2024 in Seoul. At least 48 African countries were represented by heads of state, government and ministers. Among them were Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and his Mauritanian counterpart Mohamed Ould El-Ghazaouani, who is also current Chairman of the African Union (AU).

“At a time when the influence of the global South is greater than ever, partnership with Africa, whose strategic importance is growing all the time, is not a choice but a necessity. In particular, Africa is positioning itself as a key partner for Korea in achieving its foreign policy aspiration of becoming a global pivot state. More than any other continent, Africa is home to the youngest population”, says the Korean government.

Exporting strategic minerals in exchange for technology transfer

But Seoul, which is making its mark in the fourth industrial revolution, notably the semi-conductor market, is above all attracted by the untapped potential of the African continent, especially its strategic minerals (30% of the world’s reserves). This cooperation should give it access to cobalt, lithium and platinum, which are essential components for technological development, whether in the manufacture of electric vehicles or in the military industry.

The Land of Fresh Morning has announced an investment of 14 billion dollars to “set an example of a stable and sustainably operated supply chain”. This funding will follow a precise plan in line with the guidelines of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), so as to boost the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP), currently estimated at 3,400 billion dollars. This will involve increasing and rationalising exports of the mineral resources targeted by the Koreans, and transferring technology and industrial know-how to young Africans.

Financial and technical support for the energy transition

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol also offered South Africa and Kenya Korean technical expertise for the construction of a battery electricity storage system and the Olkaria geothermal power plant respectively. Seoul plans to step up “collaboration on the construction of roads, railways, airports and ports, and smart city systems”, which will be fine-tuned over the coming months.

This energy support will not be Korea’s first in Africa. The South-East Asian country is a leading partner in Nigeria, where it has been funding the installation of solar mini-grids since 2022 ($12.4 million) to accelerate electrification in rural areas. Korea Polytechnic University and energy suppliers S&D Powernics and ILJIN Electrics are contributing their expertise in the installation of transmission and distribution lines, the supply of electrical equipment and systems, and training in operation and maintenance.

Benoit-Ivan Wansi

error: Content is protected !!