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  National
Tunisian Amb. Baati says
"Korea-Africa Forum Is Turning Point for Ties"
1st Ever Meet Marks New Era of Friendship, Partnership
Special Contribution
By Moncef Baati
Tunisian Ambassador to Seoul
Ambassador Moncef Baati of the Tunisian Embassy in Seoul

On Nov. 7 and 8, 2006, Seoul will host the first ever meeting of "Africa-Korea Forum." Many consider that this forum will constitute a turning point in the Korea-Africa relations and will be the culminant stage of the so-called "Year of Africa for Korean diplomacy."

Indeed, this forum, a timely initiative since Korea and Africa are keen to diversify their partnership and to enlarge the horizon for their respective economies, is organized to promote better understanding and better cooperation between African countries and Korea in all fields and to mark the beginning of a new era of friendship and partnership.

Africans are looking with high expectations to this meeting to produce a blueprint for future partnership between the two parties.

Last March, president Rho Moo-hyun in the context of his visit to 3 African countries launched the "Korea's initiative for African development." This initiative stipulates that Korea will triple its envelope of development assistance to Africa by 2008. Through this plan, South Korean government indicates its willingness to assume the responsibility commensurate with its international position and to play its part in international efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Also, within this initiative Korea expresses readiness to share with African countries its own experiences in overcoming poverty and underdevelopment. Many are tremendously impressed by the social and economic transformation that has taken place in Korea within a generation or two. Forty years ago, Korea exhibited many symptoms that unhappily continue to characterize some African economies. Today Korea is a member of OECD. It is the 11th economy in the world and it is playing a leading role in IT sector.

So, many countries would like to emulate such achievements.

"It is no longer possible to pursue a balanced development in the world if we fail to act to address the problems facing Africa" has indicated His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Korea and next Secretary General of United Nations in a major article entitled "The Present and Future of Korea's Diplomatic Policy toward Africa."

So, if it's important that Korea increases it's ODA, it is more important that Korea increases its investment and trade flows in and with African countries.

Nowadays Africa is a place of hope and a place of opportunity. Let me illustrate this with the example of my own country.

According to last report of World Economic Forum, Tunisia's economy is the most competitive in Africa and the Arab World. Globally, in 2006-2007, Tunisia is ranked 30th, moving up seven places compared to last year.

In many specific areas, Tunisia is ranked among the leading countries of the world:

- 3rd in terms of ability to avoid "wastefulness of government spending right" (after Singapore and Iceland);

- 5th in terms of "agricultural policy costs,"

- 11th in terms of "quality of the education system,"

- 17th in terms of "time required starting a business,"

In this era of globalization, the revolution in information and communication technology is bringing fresh opportunities for change for all countries. It is very important to know that the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the initiative of African Leaders for the transformation of the continent through the economic development, has granted to ITC the necessary priority as a vehicle for an accelerated development.

Early and fully aware of the importance of IT in the process of development and of the negative impact of the digital divide, president Ben Ali launched in 1998 his initiative aiming to organize an international Summit under the auspices of the United Nations to tackle the issue of the digital divide. Tunisia hosted in November 2005 with success the 2nd phase of the World Summit on Information Society dedicated to identify ways and means to reduce the digital gap between developing and developed countries.

Many countries look with big admiration to the successful Korea model. Korea stands today, as one of the most advanced countries in IT industry. With 77% of the population connected to the broadband Internet, Korea was ranked first in the digital opportunity index surveyed by WSIS. In addition, South Korea has very strong assets and high technology including its IT839 Strategy in promising sectors like WIBRO and DMB technologies, semiconductors, PC, LC, etc.

I am confident that Korea, with all these solid means and as a country looking to enhance its international statute and image worldwide, is able to contribute in creating a wider sustainable development and equitable information society in the African continent.

In addition, this forum will give to Africa and Korea an opportunity to work together to ensure that the emerging global order in the early 21st century responds to the preoccupations of all peoples of this planet.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon, minister of foreign affairs and trade of Korea underlined recently the support of the African countries to his election as the next Secretary General of UN. It is with great pleasure that I salute this diplomatic prowess and congratulate the Korea people for this achievement. I am sure that Mr. Ban, as he underlined himself in the occasion of the celebration of the 61st UN Day, will "take fully on board the aspirations of developing world. Indeed, throughout my consultations with Members States over the past months, I could see that the dominant concern on the minds of a great majority was development and the need for a greater international cooperation in the area."



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