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WBG head calls on Korea to invest in Africa

WBG head calls on Korea to invest in Africa

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Published : 2013-12-03 14:28
Updated : 2013-12-03 20:22

World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim speaks at a luncheon meeting with Korean businesspeople in Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday urged the Korean private sector to invest in under-developed countries, namely those in Africa where Kim saw new investment opportunities.

“The (Korean) private sector can play a huge role,” Kim said at a press conference at Seoul’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, stressing the purpose of his visit was to focus on regions where people may not have viewed as an opportunity ― “in this case, Africa.”

He declined to detail what his organization was doing to promote investment in Africa from the local private sector, but said the two sides were working closely.

The Korean office of the World Bank Group in Songdo, Incheon, opens Wednesday as part of the organization’s strategy to promote participation from Korea and use the country’s unique experience as the world’s only aid recipient-turned donor, he said.

“I think there is an under-appreciation of opportunities in Africa among Korean companies,” he said. “In fact, Korea is a little bit behind. China has been very aggressively investing and they learned a tremendous amount.”

North Korea, Kim said, could be another such frontier, should it decide to open.

But regarding how the World Bank Group may play a bigger role in fighting poverty and offer more assistance in the North, Kim said that unless the nation decided to take the necessary steps to qualify for membership of the World Bank Group, there was nothing he could do.

Korea, once one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita GDP of under $70, has been increasing its overseas assistance over the years and is now aiming to hit $3 billion by 2015.

“I’m extremely encouraged, and this is one of the reasons why there are so many ways for Korea to leverage current investment and have an even bigger impact,” Kim said. “The Korean experience of development is tremendously inspiring for the African developing world.”

Following his election as the 12th World Bank Group president in 2012, Kim laid out new strategies and initiatives for ending extreme poverty by 2030 while promoting shared prosperity.

During a lecture hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry ahead of the conference, he spoke along similar lines in urging investment into Africa.

Kim arrived in Korea earlier in the day to cover a series of events including a meeting with the central bank head and local business representatives that include Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Park Yong-maan, Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, Homeplus Group chairman Lee Seung-han and Samyang Holdings vice chairman Kim Won.

On Wednesday, Kim is scheduled to head for Songdo for the launch of the Green Climate Fund and the Korean offices of the World Bank Group.

Kim was elected as president of the World Bank Group in April 2012 following the nomination by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The World Bank Group is an international financial institution providing loans to developing countries for capital programs with the ultimate goal of reducing poverty. It is a part of the World Bank Group, along with four other organizations including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation. 

By Kim Ji-hyun

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