S Korean president to host Africa summit eyeing minerals, trade

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol. Photo: AFP

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol. Photo: AFP

Published Jun 3, 2024


South Korea will aim to secure critical mineral imports and boost trade ties with Africa as President Yoon Suk Yeol hosts dozens of heads of state from the continent at a major summit on Tuesday.

Africa's abundant mineral resources are considered important globally for sectors ranging from electric vehicle manufacturing to defence industries.

South Korea is one of the world’s largest producers of high-tech semiconductors, and home to top memory chip makers Samsung Electronics and SK hynix.

The East Asian country “is a high-tech manufacturing powerhouse, but it relies heavily on imports for over 95% of its raw mineral needs”, Yoon told AFP in written comments provided by the president’s office.

From cobalt to platinum, countries across Africa have deep reserves of the critical minerals needed to power the semiconductor industry – and South Korea was hoping to boost cooperation with the resource-rich continent to secure access, Yoon said.

Seoul hopes to sign a slew of agreements with countries attending the summit and “lay the foundation for comprehensive cooperation, including the exchange of information related to critical minerals, technological collaboration and joint exploration”, Yoon said.

Forty-eight African countries will attend, Seoul has said. The main summit is set for Tuesday, followed by a business summit involving South Korean and African industry leaders on Wednesday.

“Despite Africa's importance, trade with the continent accounts for only 1.9 percent of Korea's total trade,” Yoon said, pointing to the continent’s huge consumer market and population.

Much of South Korea’s current trade with Africa is imports of raw materials, such as coal from South Africa, as well as metals including iron ore and stainless steel. Exports include high-value items such as cars and electronics.

Seoul is looking to “actively support business-to-business exchanges” to boost overall trade, Yoon added.

One of the biggest projects by South Korean companies in Africa is Daewoo E&C’s construction of the Kazungula Bridge, which crosses the Zambezi River on the border between Zambia and Botswana.

According to reports, the bridge has shortened the logistics transit time between the two countries from two weeks to two hours.

Yoon said there were “a myriad of viable projects where Korea and Africa can collaborate across the entire field of infrastructure”.

That could include “the construction of roads, railways, airports and ports; smart city systems, including smart transportation; and, the establishment of master plans”, he added.