Win-win solutions offered under stronger alliances
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, center, talks at a press conference during the Chungcheong Forum at the Lotte Hotel Seoul, Thursday. Also participating are the forum’s Chairman Sung Wan-jong, left, concurrently CEO of Kaengnam Enterprises, and former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan. / Courtesy of Kaengnam Enterprises
By Kim Tae-gyu
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi asked for far stronger partnerships between African states and Korea, the country with many lessons and much knowhow to share with the former thanks to its fast growth over the past few decades.
As the head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an economic development program of African states, Zenawi made the point at the Chungcheong Forum held in Seoul, Thursday.
``Korea must share its development experience with African countries, so that Africans can select and adapt what is useful to them,’’ said Zenawi who has been elected Ethiopian Prime Minister four times consecutively since 1995.
As Korea has a history of taking advantage of outside assistance to evolve from ``rags to riches,’’ Zenawi said that Asia’s fourth-largest economy has to offer a helping hand based on its unique knowledge.
``South Korea knows better than almost anyone else what type of external assistance works and what does not work. It knows better than almost everyone else how to make good use of such assistance,’’ the 55-year-old said.
``South Korea is now rich enough to provide development assistance of various types. It must do so on the basis of the lessons of its own successful experience. It must provide the type of assistance that can over time obviate the need for such assistance.’’
Zenawi said that the partnership between Korea and Africa is not merely about one-sided aid but also about a win-win solution involving the former’s rich funds and the latter’s abundant resources.
``It is also an environment where Africa’s natural resources are in greater demand than ever but where a lack of adequate savings is constraining Africa’s development,’’ he said.
``There are obvious complementarities between Asia in general and Korea in particular that can be the basis of a mutually beneficial partnership. Africa needs Korean investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and the development of natural resources. Korea needs African markets and natural resources to continue its extraordinary growth.’’
Zenawi said that Korea is already doing well in supporting developing countries in time with the G20 Summit in Seoul, which takes place on Nov. 11 and 12.
``I am very pleased to note that South Korea has already started doing all of the things I have suggested today. South Korea’s sponsorship of the development of poorer countries in the context of the G20 is a case in point,’’ Zenawi said.
``Thanks to Korea, among others, the G20 has for the first time taken up the issues of growth and development in the least developed countries. South Korea has taken a leading role in charting a new and progressive agenda for growth and development.’’
Zenawi, who will be also part of the G20 gathering as head of NEPA, suggested Korea will continue to represent the voices of developing states.
``South Korea has put its money where its mouth is and is assisting many African states in a manner that is consistent with the framework that is expected to be endorsed by the G20 in its Seoul Summit,’’ he said.
``We Africans can thus say thank you to South Korea for its support and cooperation and encourage it to stay the course in spite of obstacles that will inevitable emerge.’’
As the leader of NEPAD, Zenawi talked about the future of Africa and Korea. As the leader of Ethiopia, he expressed strong affection for Korea because the two countries are long-time allies.
In fact, Ethiopia was one of the 16 countries that sent troops 60 years ago when the Korean War (1950-53) broke out.
Back then, South Korea was one of the world’s poorest countries and Ethiopia was a potential-laden player that was expected to chalk up fast growth as one of the most powerful forces on the African continent.
In particular, Zenawi himself has a special connection to Korea as amply demonstrated by the fact that he received an honorary Ph.D. from Korea’s Hannam University.
``We Ethiopians have longer and deeper cooperation with South Korea than most other Africans. ... South Korea has provided substantial assistance to Ethiopia’s development and South Korean companies are beginning to enter the Ethiopian market in a very significant manner,’’ he said.
``We thus have the basis to forge a partnership that can be a model for South Korea-Africa cooperation. We are eager to build on what we have achieved so far and to contribute to the further development of cooperation.’’
A few Korean companies have waded into Ethiopia spearheaded by Kaengnam Enterprises, a powerhouse in the construction industry.
In response, Chungcheong Forum Chairman Sung Wan-jong, also chief executive at Kaengnam Enterprises, showcased his wishes for the two countries to create a stronger alliance down the road.
``Ethiopia is a strong ally of Korea ― the former dispatched its troops 60 years ago in order to safeguard South Korea’s democracy,’’ Sung said in a speech during the Chungcheong Forum.
``Despite the close relationship, the economic ties of the two are unsatisfactory. After this forum, I hope that the two nations will generate stronger communications in politics, economics, cultures and social affairs.’’
Around 600 members of the forum, which was initiated in 2000 to attract a total of 3,500 members over the past decade, took part in the forum.
Also taking part were a number of high-profile participants including former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan; Chung Jin-suk, presidential secretary for political affairs; Rep. Ko Heung-kil from the governing Grand National Party; and Rep. Jun Byung-hun from the main opposition Democratic Party.