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South Korea’s Yoon calls for greater cooperation with Africa on minerals, trade By Reuters

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Tuesday the country will step up cooperation with African nations to secure a stable supply of critical minerals and speed up negotiations to promote economic partnerships and trade.

Hosting a first-ever summit with the leaders of 48 African countries, Yoon said South Korea will increase development aid for Africa to $10 billion over the next six years as it looks to tap the continent’s rich mineral resources and potential as a vast export market.

“We will seek sustainable ways to work together on issues directly related to future growth, such as stable supplies of key minerals and digital transformation,” Yoon said in his opening remarks.

He also pledged to offer $14 billion in export financing to promote trade and investment for South Korean companies in African countries.

South Korea is one of the world’s largest energy buyers and is home to leading semiconductor producers. It is also home to the world’s fifth-largest automaker Hyundai Motor (OTC:) Group, which is making a push for electrification.

Partnering with Africa, which has 30% of the world’s reserves of critical minerals including chrome, cobalt and manganese is crucial, Yoon’s office has said.

At least 30 heads of state are attending the summit, with delegations from 48 countries participating. Yoon and the chair of the African Union, Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, are due to issue a joint statement, Yoon’s office said.

Yoon proposed “shared growth” as a pillar of cooperation with the continent and stressed the need to establish a framework to promote trade and exchange, vowing to speed up talks for economic partnership agreements and trade and investment promotion frameworks.

By reaching out with offers to help with industrial infrastructure and digital transformation, South Korea is trying to tap into a vast and fast-growing market that is home to 1.4 billion people, the majority of whom are 25 or younger.

Park Jong-dae, a former South Korean ambassador to South Africa and Uganda, argued Western and Chinese models of development had failed African nations, and South Korea offered a valuable alternative path.

“The essence of Korean model of development cooperation is human development, and about management, rather than about provision of assistance per se,” he said.

“Korea has the experience and knowhow of development … while many African countries have immense possibilities for development based on yet to be explored, untapped resources and endowment, and dynamic young population,” he said.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol attends a press conference marking two years in office, at the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea, May 9, 2024. SONG KYUNG-SEOK/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

On Wednesday, South Korean business leaders will host a business summit focused on investment, industrial development and food security.

Yoon will continue separate meetings with visiting leaders.

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