Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan, right, talks to Hong Suk-woo, the minister of Knowledge Economy, as he enters an economic ministers' meeting at the Central Government Complex in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap
By Cho Mu-hyun
The government announced Tuesday that it plans to boost Korea's trade with African countries with a goal to increase bilateral trade to $80 billion by the year 2020.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said that it had a new set of measures that will boost economic support for African nations while benchmarking frontrunners such as Germany and France to increase the portfolio of financial support.
It will increase its economic development cooperation fund for the countries from the current annual $200 million to $300 million by 2015 out of the total $900 million official development assistance fund.
The move will not only boost government relations but will also instigate more cooperation in the private sector, the ministry said.
Knowledge sharing programs and other consulting assistance will also be expanded under the new measures.
In a press release, Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said the measure will also be a chance to show off the nation's political and diplomatic power on the global stage saying, "the Korea peninsula will be a place where competition among nations for hegemony delineates itself most clearly.
"The power structure in the United States, China, Russia and Japan is going through a reshuffle. To become allies in overcoming difficulties from their current friend-enemy relationship, Korea's part as a bridge is in need," he added.
The new support plan was approved and announced at an economic ministers' meeting Tuesday.
The government is also speeding up ratification of agreements to avoid double taxation with Gabon, Sudan and Nigeria. New negotiations will proceed with Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania on the issue.
Seoul will also proceed to sign investment promotion and protection agreement with Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique. These countries will also receive financial support for agriculture.
Korea built a culture center in Nigeria in February and plans to build others in Egypt and South Africa by 2013. Korean soap operas will be provided for free to some nations.
The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy plans to build African cultural research centers in some nations to increase expertise on the continent.
Seoul also plans to join the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, which currently has 53 member countries and use it as a comprehensive channel for cooperation in education.
The ministry pledged to recruit a "second Korea" in the continent that will repeat Korea's economical development of the past. It vowed to share "development experience to build mutual trust with African nations."
Korean companies have been eyeing the resource rich continent and the recent move will also form a consortium of social overhead capital firms and distributors to minimize their risks. The government plans to give market research aid to small- and medium-sized firms to help them expand into Africa.
The ministry also plans to send an emissary of government and corporate officials who are part of the consortium to Ethiopia to promote new energy projects in progress by Korean firms and expand business networks in the country.
The government plans to check the measures every six months and layout more specific plans during the first half of next year.