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210202 [INTERVIEW] Post-COVID era to bring new momentum for Africa ties [TheKoreaTimes]

관리자 / 2021-02-02 오후 2:35:00 / 80

For the last three years after its establishment, the Korea-Africa Foundation has been keeping up with the government's efforts to expand presence in Africa, where "the new scramble" as described by The Economist has been witnessed.

The term refers to the third wave of foreign interest in Africa after European colonial rule and the Cold War.

In the post-COVID-19 era, Korea does not want to miss out. The role of the foundation ― operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ― is becoming more vital than ever in raising public and business interests toward Africa, according to Korea-Africa Foundation President Choi Yeon-ho.

"When the pandemic ends and the global economy starts to recover, it will bring an opportunity for us to create momentum on Africa ties," Choi told The Korea Times in an interview at his office in southern Seoul, Jan. 26. "The coronavirus, after all, will not diminish Korea-Africa relations but rather strengthen them."

Choi explained African countries in general have been trying to offset their lack of road, rail, landline internet and other conventional means of communication and infrastructure by nurturing fintech, e-commerce, wireless technology, virtual conferences, drones and other industries that do not necessarily require people-to-people contact.

Their strategy corresponds to emerging non-contact businesses as well as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is making the region an attractive investment destination for tech-savvy countries like Korea, Choi said.

The high-tech-friendly atmosphere adds to Africa's other advantages, including rich natural resources, abundant labor force with 70 percent of the 1.3 billion population being aged 30 or younger and a growing middle class estimated to be up to 600 million.

On Jan. 1, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement was implemented.

AfCFTA is a blueprint for an integrated continental economic bloc under the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, which has a goal of building a self-reliant, well-educated and technology-driven society. The agenda seeks to transform the continent into a global powerhouse by 2063.

AfCFTA will benefit foreign companies operating in Africa by removing tariffs and other barriers and helping expand intra-continental trade of goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy, among others.

Under the circumstance, not only major powers including the Western European countries, the United States and China but also developing countries such as India, Malaysia and Vietnam are eyeing the African market in the post-COVID-19 era, according to Choi.