South Korea eyes Africa to increase export led growth

South Korea is seeking to boost its business presence in Africa by establishing three new business centres to support South Korean businesses and African importers following in China’s foot steps.

South Korea’s state-run trade agency said Wednesday it will open a new business center in Ethiopia this week, the first of three business-trade support centers to be set up in Africa this year.

The Korea Business Center (KBC) in Ethiopia will be opened Thursday (local time) in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
KOTRA will also open a KBC in Accra, the capital of Ghana, on Friday, followed by one in Douala, the largest city in Cameroon, in September.

The total number of South Korean business support centers in Africa will be brought to seven this year after the opening of the three KBCs.

“Africa had long been regarded as a subject of one-sided assistance and not a business partner due to years of civil wars, famine and diseases, but with a reduction of armed conflicts and strong economic growth that has stayed above an annual average of 5 percent since 2004 the region is now becoming a new trade partner,” KOTRA said.

KOTRA noted the African continent may become one of the world’s largest markets in the future with over 800 million people living in the 48 countries south of the Sahara Desert.

Africa’s imports jumped more than two-fold from US$154 billion in 2004 to $324 billion in 2008, recording annual growth of over 20 percent, it said.

In 2009, South Korea shipped $9.62 billion worth of products to African countries, only about 2 percent of its annual exports.

“Africa is also becoming very important as a future source of energy for our country as the region has the world’s third largest reserves of oil and the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas,” KOTRA said.

After seeing the growth and progress that China has made in Africa, South Korea is following in the same footsteps as its Asian neighbor by increasing its economic footprint on the continent.  This is mainly due for a need for new markets as demographically, growth at home and in Asia will slow down as more and more people age faster than anywhere else in the world, except for Europe.  Targeting a region that has economic upside, a growing middle class and young workers is the right recipe for South Korea to maintain stable growth.

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