11/09/2006, 00.00
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From Beijing to Seoul, the long march of Africa's economy

The first Korea-Africa summit opened yesterday bringing together African and South Korean leaders and officials. Seoul announces US$ 100 million in development assistance to African countries. After China, Africa finds a new economic partner.

Seoul (AsiaNews/CI) – Heads of state and government from more than 20 African nations gathered in Seoul yesterday for the first Korea-Africa Forum conference to discuss future economic cooperation and growth. During the event the South Korean government announced it will triple official development assistance for African countries to US$ 100 million dollars a year by 2008.

It also pledged to share its industrial and technological expertise with the continent, helping with public projects in areas of public health and good governance.

Burundi Communications Minister Karenga Ramadhani said: "Technology is one of such areas where Korea is a leader in the world with a very strong economy and very good economic lessons."

For South Korean Foreign Minister and UN Secretary General-elect Ban Ki-moon the "first official Korea-Africa Forum has started out small in scale and slow in responding to the need for such a forum compared to those in other countries. As the saying goes, however, a good start is half the battle and I'm confident that substantial results can be achieved."

The diplomat was referring to a similar forum that ended a few days ago in Beijing and that brought together Chinese and African leaders. China, which can boast of a longer connection to the African continent, signed trade deals worth more than US$ 1.9 billion.

Zambia's Ambassador to Seoul Godfrey Simasiku does not expect the two Asian powers to become rivals though. "In the great lengths of Africa we have a lot of mining resources. We have energy and water resources that can be exploited," he said. Africa's economies are taking their first steps in world markets and Africans are looking forward to co-operate with anyone, he added.

The Korea-Africa Forum builds on Korea's Initiative for Africa Development, which President Roh Moo-hyun launched following his visit to Africa in March.

Seoul says it hopes to turn the forum into a biennial summit of African leaders within the next ten years, suggesting that the meeting will be more than just talking heads but a consultative body seeking concrete measures.

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