In Seoul, A Fresh Look at Africa

H.E., Hilton Anthony Dennis, South African Ambassador to Korea, suggests innovative ways for the Korean government and businesses to venture into Africa.

SEOUL, January 18, 2011 - Speaking at a luncheon held at Lotte Hotel Seoul by Asia Society Korea Center, H.E., Hilton Anthony Dennis, South Africa's Ambassador to Korea, said the Korean government and private investors need to develop a fresh approach to the African continent.

Dennis noted that Africa has not only become the world's most populated continent, but it has also birthed Western civilizations such as the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Nubians. Unfortunately, he said, the Africa that was once a fruitful trading partner with the West and East has been colonized, exploited, and plagued by social and political unrest.

"This era of colonization destroyed the system of multiple trade partners and obliterated the knowledge that sustained the African economy," said Dennis. "While the rise of Asia pushed prices of African resources up, it did not stop colonial patterns of producing resources for other countries."

Dennis noted that while Africa is in its "economic growth mode," the world needs to realize that Africa is also the "last frontier for economic growth and development known for a multi-polar world as envisaged by the G20.”

In order to deal with these issues, Dennis called for greater collaboration between Africa and Korea to address issues such as Africa's energy crisis. He called upon Korean businesses and governments to reflect on their shared history of colonization and the outcomes produced by Korea’s development over the last 50 years. The nexus of Africans, he said, need a Korean strategy.

"Koreans should be mindful as it mirrors her own development. Most of the social challenges that arise are from its colonial legacy and Korea shares this experience with Africa," said Dennis. "The needs of African countries have special needs and Korea and its companies should look at these needs as a business opportunities."

Dennis said he believes long-term social stability will depend on a combination of both localization and indigenization to address the "social reality of ... the richest regions in raw materials having the poorest people."

Just as Korea diversified its economy away from a single commodity by partnering with a wide array of trading partners, Dennis stated that Africa needs new kinds of partnerships in which countries trade with emerging companies for greater trade investment and technology transfer. He said, "Korea is well placed to customize this model for individual countries." He later added that this economic development has been what he calls a multifaceted approach, through a three-tier system: with the African Union, at the regional level, and at the country level.

"While Korea has good engagement with the African Union, it does not at the regional level and it is still tentative at the country level. What is required of Korea is to develop a unique knowledge system by partnering with knowledge institutions and to delve into the essence of a partner country’s goals and go behind the caricatures and the stereotypes."

Dennis concluded by reminding his audience of Einstein’s observation that "Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts."