The Future We Make Together: Key Outcomes of the Korea-Africa Summit 2024

The 21st century has often been described as the “Asian Century” due to the rapid economic growth and geopolitical rise of countries like India and China, which have become major global players influencing international trade, politics, and culture. While the 21st century has seen Asia’s rise, there is growing recognition that Africa holds the key to the future. The demographic trend, Africa’s abundant natural resources, and expanding consumer markets, among many other reasons, have led to the geopolitical focus on Africa. 

Against this backdrop, the Korea-Africa Summit 2024 in Seoul highlights the Republic of Korea’s pivot to African nations. Notably, this was the largest multilateral Summit hosted by President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea with participation from 48 African states. In his address during the summit, President Yoon Suk Yeol pointed out the historical solidarity between South Korea and African nations, tracing back to the Korean War when Africa supported South Korea’s fight for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. He proposed three main directions for future cooperation under the summit’s theme, “The Future We Make Together”: shared growth through trade agreements, sustainability by combining South Korean technology with Africa’s resources and dynamic population, and solidarity in maintaining peace, especially in light of provocations from North Korea. 

Similarly, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani, President of Mauritania and Chair of the African Union, in his address expressed gratitude and trust towards South Korea on behalf of African nations. He addressed the importance of the summit in reinforcing the strong relationship between Africa and South Korea, which is built on mutual respect and shared goals for development and cooperation. In addition, the President of Rwanda, also emphasized the role of cutting-edge innovation in accelerating the adoption of the latest technologies in Rwanda and across Africa. He noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area could make Africa a central driver of global growth. He stressed that the summit was long overdue and recognized ‘South Korea as a global pivotal state and Africa as a global pivotal continent’.

By referring to the Joint Declaration at the Korea-Africa 2024 Summit, we can infer that various trade and investment promotion frameworks and dozens of MoUs were signed during the summit. For instance, economic cooperation through frameworks such as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), Trade and Investment Promotion Frameworks (TIPFs), Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs), and Investment Protection Agreements (IPAs). The leaders also recognized the potential for mutual benefit in supporting Africa’s industrialization, trade and investment. Efforts to support Africa’s regional economic integration, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), were emphasized. Additionally, the summit underscored the need for quality infrastructure projects, including smart cities and intelligent transport systems, and the integration of digital technologies in sectors such as agriculture and healthcare. Initiatives like Tech4Africa and expanded scholarship programs were also welcomed to enhance digital capabilities and vocational training for Africa’s youth.  The summit also underlined the urgency of addressing global challenges like climate change, food insecurity, health crises, energy crises, and supply chain disruptions. The leaders reiterated their commitment to promoting clean energy, sustainable land and marine conservation, and a responsive climate finance architecture. Similarly, cooperation in food security was highlighted, with a focus on advanced agricultural technologies and irrigation facilities. The summit also marked the importance of healthcare access, particularly in strengthening capacities for global health crises response. 

Recognizing Africa’s significance in the supply of critical minerals, the Korea-Africa Critical Minerals Dialogue was launched to ensure stable supply and promote industry development. It is interesting to note that Africa is home to about 30% of the world’s critical minerals, including 92% of platinum, 56% of cobalt, 54% of manganese, and 36% of chromium, which are essential for green energy technologies and electric vehicle production. Before the summit, South Korea had secured only 36 mines compared to 1,900 by the US and 134 by Japan. This highlights both the need and opportunity for South Korea to strengthen its mineral ties with Africa. Similarly, trade between China and Africa grew from $11 billion in 2000 to $257 billion last year, while trade between Africa and Korea increased from $890 million in 1988 to $20 billion last year. However, Africa still represents only 2.5% of Korea’s international trade which indicates significant room for improvement. Therefore, it would be interesting to track post-summit trends in this particular area of cooperation. 

Apart from this, the leaders expressed their willingness to enhance cooperation in defense, counterterrorism, and peace support operations. Humanitarian assistance in crisis areas, such as the Gaza Strip, was also addressed. Furthermore, Korea’s commitment to cooperate with African countries in international forums, including the UN Security Council and G20. Interestingly, Korea pledged to expand Official Development Assistance (ODA) to $10 billion by 2030 and provide $14 billion in export financing to stimulate trade and investment with Africa. The leaders emphasized the importance of regularly reviewing and supporting the implementation of summit commitments through high-level consultative bodies and a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2026 to evaluate progress and plan future summits. These initiatives aim to deepen Korea-Africa relations.

Earlier this year, The Italy-Africa Summit 2024 was held in Rome and Italy launched its ‘Mattei Plan’ to mark its enhanced cooperation and plans in the region. At the G20 Summit in Delhi last year, the African Union became a permanent member of the G20. These summits reflect a broader trend of increasing international engagement with Africa. Looking ahead, the success of these initiatives will hinge on sustained political will, effective implementation of agreements, and continuous dialogue. As for Korea-Africa, the proposed high-level consultative bodies and future summits will be crucial in maintaining momentum and ensuring that the partnership evolves to meet emerging challenges. The Korea-Africa Summit has laid a strong foundation for a dynamic and collaborative future, promising significant strides in economic development, technological innovation, and global stability. However, to achieve these goals and implement these plans, stable governments in the African continent are crucial to its success. Nonetheless, the summit set the stage for trade opportunities vis-à-vis crucial minerals for clean energy, Hydro and Nuclear power cooperation and technology transfer between Korea and African Nations. 

Dnyanashri Kulkarni is currently working as a Research Fellow at the India Foundation in New Delhi. She has pursued her bachelor’s in French literature from Mumbai University and has completed her post-graduation in International Relations from the Jindal School of International Affairs.

[Photo by Korea-Africa Summit Preparatory Office]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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