Africa is changing and Korea should get on board, ambassadors of African nations said at a forum in Seoul on Wednesday to celebrate Africa Day.
“Currently, six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa,” said Albino Malungo, ambassador of Angola and dean of the African Group of Ambassadors. “The African train has already left the station. The message to our Korean business partners is that Africa is the new global growth pole and the next market.”
The Korea-Africa Foundation, African Diplomatic Corps in Korea and Federation of Korean Industries hosted the Africa Business Seminar at the FKI Tower in western Seoul, on Wednesday. Organizers highlighted the African Continental Free Trade Area, which includes 44 countries and intends to pool together African goods and services into a single market with free movement of people and investment.
The free trade area “is aware that there are other economic communities in the regions where it will [have] impact,” said Rwandan Ambassador Emma-Francoise Isumbingabo, who chaired the preparation committee for this year’s Africa Day celebration in Korea. “[The free trade area] will work closely with existing communities, aligning itself with their goals and objectives, and ensuring that cooperation with foreign and outside investment in the African market is made easy and approachable.”
Investors noted budding Korean interest in the African market.
“Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has what’s called the Country Partnership Strategy for each recipient country of its funds,” said Jun Woo-hyung, director of trade information at the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, “which in Africa are Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania. There is budding interest in the African market here. Recall that the African Development Bank held its annual meeting in Busan this past May.”
Some ambassadors said Korean companies can do more in Africa.
“We all think there is a huge potential that is underutilized,” said Egyptian Ambassador Hazem Fahmy. “Korea is leading in high technology and the fourth industrial revolution, and I think it could make huge profits by investing in Africa in these areas.”
Africa Day is celebrated on May 25 annually and commemorates the foundation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. In addition to the business forum, embassies of African nations hosted a food and culture fair in central Seoul’s Cheonggye Plaza.
There was injera (sourdough flatbread) made with teff flour; baked goods from the Algerian embassy, including semolina-stuffed makrout and date-filled kaak cookies; figurines from Ghana in traditional dress; handwoven baskets from Sudan and Rwanda; and stone animals from Tanzania.
“Before I knew it, Korea has become my home,” said Audrey Aduol, a 28-year-old Kenyan studying at Seoul National University, who was helping out at the Kenyan booth. “The other time I went home, I felt like a guest in my own country. It’s bittersweet how that happens.”
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]