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Letters to the Editor
Madam President, Please Don’t Snub Africa
By Benson Kamary
Associate Editor & Writer
President-Elect Park Geun-Hye

Dear Madam President! Receive my heartfelt felicitations for seollal, the lunar new year. If it is in order, allow me to commend you on your election.

Now to my point. Madam President you’re commencing your executive journey on the right footing particularly on safeguarding vital links with the key political and trade allies. Indeed Beijing and Washington remain dominant in the contemporary geopolitical realm. Others like Tokyo, Pyongyang and EU’s main office, Brussels, are undeniably imperative depending on the attitude they bear.

But Madam President, I wish to plead the case of Africa. This time, let’s forget the ‘begging bowl’ images of 80s and 90s. Africa is rising, and seriously so.

Admittedly, the West tried doling out aid for decades but look where Africa stood – stuck in a socio-political and economic quagmire. That was then then. So what has changed? I say the attitude; purely, the attitude, Madam, President. You see, with comprehensive structures for transparent trade and innovations, African business executives, literati, politicians and even farmers can now catch their own fish – affirmatively they got the intellect, the vision, the passion. The younger generation now possesses a kind of drive that birthed saemaul undong, Korea’s revolutionary village movement.

Picture this Madam President: Since 2000, six of the ten nations with the highest economic growth globally were in Africa. In fact, the IMF has predicted that Africa's growth rate will topple that of Asia in about ten years. President Lee Myung Bak noted in 2011 that African economic development driven by its one billion people will create a new stage for the global economy in the 21st century. He added that Africa is the "hope for the future of this planet." It sounds hyperbolic but still profound.

Madam President, there is a new wave of in-depth reforms in the ‘safari’ land. It is now easy to start businesses and directly invest in African. The judiciary, health and educational infrastructures are being reformed as revenue collection, food security and youth empowerment programs enhanced. More oil and natural gases have just been discovered – the takeoff is imminent.

One more thing Madam President, vital institutions will now keep politicians’ noses out of the national coffers. You know, we can’t be wrong always, and I think Beijing saw it coming and acted she swiftly… well, we cannot gossip, right?

After seven years in Korea, I am convinced that a Korea-Africa partnership will be quite revolutionary. Africa has more reasons to trust Seoul than to suspect her. And again, Korea was where Africa is today not so long ago.

Thankfully, the outgoing administration helped to establish the Korea–Africa Economic Forum among other contextualized initiatives. Another notable economic catalyst is the direct flights from Seoul to Nairobi by Korean Air. And the fact that trade between Korea and Africa increased by more than fourfold from $5.7bn to $22.2bn between 2000 to and 2010 is a decent indicator. Trade volume between my country, Kenya, and Korea actually grew over 260%. Incredible. But sadly trade balance is still hugely in favor of Korea.

Lest I be accused of radical optimism, I will now make a clarification. There are and still and will be many gyrating challenges of tribalism, corruption and poverty facing the continent. They might not be eliminated in a day, not even in five years but when important socio-economic and political cogs begin turning, you better be excited.

Madam, you can open a new chapter with Africa’s new potential. And when all is said and done, you will be remembered, Madam President.



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Benson Kamary, professor of Tongmyong University in Pusan, serves as an Associate Editor & Writer for The Seoul Times. Based in Busan, South Korea, the Kenyan professor also serves as chairman of Kenya Community in Korea (KCK). He can be reached at bkamary@yahoo.com

 

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