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‘South African, Korean economies can complement each other’

With the silver jubilee of diplomatic ties slated on Dec.1 this year, South Africa and South Korea can expand cooperation by exploiting economic areas of mutual benefit, according to Ambassador Nozuko Gloria Bam.

South Africa’s recently adopted National Development Plan targets economic diversification and higher competitiveness, covering mining, agriculture, manufacturing and services. To achieve these measures, the government identified 40 projects in energy, infrastructure and manufacturing, which would help propel the country’s industrialization and modernization.

“Trade and investment remains the backbone of our relations, and there is still considerable room to expand and diversify our commerce,” the South African top envoy to Korea said in an interview ahead of the country’s Freedom Day on Thursday.

The national holiday celebrates the freedom and democracy that began with the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. This year’s Freedom Day also marks the birth centenary of the late Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-93), a South African anti-apartheid politician who served as President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991.

Noting that South Africa chose 2017 as the year of Oliver Tambo, Bam said he dedicated his life to equality and justice as one of the founding fathers of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. Tambo also played an integral role in liberating South Africa from apartheid oppression, which lasted from 1948 through 1991.
 
The late Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-93), a South African anti-apartheid politician who served as President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991.(Rob C. Croes / Anefo)
The late Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-93), a South African anti-apartheid politician who served as President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991.(Rob C. Croes / Anefo)

“South Africa is well positioned to supply Korea with products related to mining, automotive components, agro-processing, textiles, jewelry, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics,” Bam said. “We welcome and encourage further Korean investments that will create employment opportunities for our people.”

The envoy highlighted opportunities in the oceans economy through South Africa’s “Operation Phakisa” policy, aimed at unlocking the potentials of the sea. South Africa expects that tapping into the oceans economy will add over $14 billion to its gross domestic product and generate over a million jobs by 2033.

Korean companies and institutions are invited to partner South African counterparts, so that they can collectively reap dividends in marine engineering, transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, maritime protection and oceans governance, the envoy noted.

The two countries have begun their collaboration, with South African companies annually participating in the Korea International Boat Show and Korean shipping enterprises operating in South Africa through local partnerships. Total two-way trade in goods topped $2.2 billion last year, dominated by South Africa’s top 10 exports, largely minerals, and Korea’s export of automotive and electronic products.

Pretoria signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement under which the government has formulated and adopted its Integrated Resource Plan, targeting affordable energy supply throughout the country. The policy is based on an alternative energy mix -- biomass, wind, solar and hydropower -- with environment-friendly and cost-effective solutions. 

South African Ambassador to Korea Nozuko Gloria Bam (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
South African Ambassador to Korea Nozuko Gloria Bam (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

A consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. has been recently selected to build and operate a coal-fired thermal power plant in Limpopo, the first independent power project in Africa. Having a quarter share in the $2.14 billion project, Kepco will manage the 630 megawatt plant 300 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. The project is expected to create 19,000 jobs.

“Continental integration and cooperation has long been a strategic objective of not only South Africa but many African countries,” the ambassador emphasized. “Through the African Union, South Africa and other regional countries are striving to eliminate tariffs as well as nontariff and regulatory barriers, so that transaction costs can be reduced and goods, services, people and capital can be moved freely throughout the resource-rich, yet underinvested continent.”

South Africa is active in many multilateral forums, such as the G-20, BRICS alliance, as well as IBSA -- India, Brazil and South Africa. The country is an active participant in the African Union, the South African Development Community and the United Nations, and currently chairing the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

On the bilateral front, Pretoria and Seoul recently elevated their relations from the Policy Consultation Forum to the Joint Cooperation Council, co-chaired by Foreign Ministers, although no date has yet been chosen to officiate the platform.

“Our government has made some considerable inroads in dealing with the scourge of apartheid since the post-apartheid era began in 1994,” according to Bam. 

Nelson Mandela casts his first-ever vote at the 1994 elections, which ushered in a democratic post-apartheid era in South Africa. (Paul Weinberg/Wikipedia)
Nelson Mandela casts his first-ever vote at the 1994 elections, which ushered in a democratic post-apartheid era in South Africa. (Paul Weinberg/Wikipedia)

The country still exhibits “serious social disparities” alongside “extremely uneven” income distribution standards compared to the global average, she conceded, adding South Africa has to tackle poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“Dealing with these challenges has become a central focus of our democratic state. Working with business, labor and civil societies, we are determined to ensure that all our people can enjoy the dividends of democracy and a better life.”

The government has put in place a number of policies and institutions -- the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Land Commission, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality -- “to recognize obligations to redress, to correct past wrongs and to affirm the historically disadvantaged,” Bam said.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
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