By Yuccee O. Uwah, chief of The Korea Post Nigeria Bureau
The President of Korea Africa Foundation (KAF), His Excellency, Ambassador Lyeo Woon-ki undertook a maiden visit to Nigeria August 29 - 30, 2022 as part of a three-nation Africa tour which included South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. KAF was established on 2018 by Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate bilateral trade, economic partnership and cultural exchange between Republic of Korea and African countries.
At a media conference organised by the Embassy of Republic of Korea in Abuja Nigeria, at the end of his tour, Ambassador Woon-ki disclosed that there were several positive outcomes from his engagement with public and private sectors and stakeholders in Nigeria. Adding that outlook for trade and economic cooperation between South Korea and Nigeria remains positive. He asserts that KAF is working towards strengthening partnership between Korea and Nigeria on bilateral trade, economic cooperation, education and cultural exchange.
Korea Post report on gains of Ambassador Woon-ki visit to Nigeria by Emman Ozoemena from Abuja, Nigeria.
KAF to Deepen Bilateral Trade between Korea and Nigeria
In a bid towards strengthening bilateral trade and economic partnership between Republic of Korea and Nigeria, President of Korea Africa Foundation (KAF), His Excellency, Ambassador Lyeo Woon-ki visited Nigeria from August 28 to 30 2022 in continuation of a three-nation tour of Africa that took him to Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. This is tour the first since he assumed office as KAF President in 2021.
Korea-Africa Foundation, a special purpose platform that facilitates bilateral trade and increasing investment profile of Korea in Africa countries. KAF’s overarching objectives include but not limited to promoting bilateral trade, economic partnership and cultural exchanges between Republic of Korea and 54 African countries that has a combined population of 1.2 billion people.
Ambassador Woon-ki at a media parley organised by the Embassy of Republic of Korea in Nigeria on August 30, 2022 reviewed impact of the visit to Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, noting it as positive, insightful and impactful. While asserting that it provided KAF opportunity of engaging in-person, for the first time with stakeholders in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
He said that due to COVID19 Pandemic, which broke-out in 2020, KAF officials were unable to visit stakeholders in Africa in-person until this time. He expressed optimism that this visit will bridged the gap, build confidence for partnership and networking.
“This visit to Nigeria, which is the first, I can have some networks and friends in Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA). It’ll be a very good start to increase and encourage business relationships with Nigeria”, he quipped.
While disclosing that consultations and discussions with some senior government officials, leadership of chambers of commerce representing organised private sector and business leaders in Nigeria provide additional impetus for exploring new opportunities that will deepen bilateral trade and economic partnership between Korea and Nigeria; increase Korea investment profile; and education and cultural exchange.
For Ambassador Woon-ki, South Korea has made enormous strides in technology, ICT, power, construction, maritime, transportation, education and culture, will be willing to share the success story with partners in Nigeria. While maintaining that KAF has several creative platforms including economic forums, seminars, visit by trade delegations, education and knowledge sharing to drive development in Nigeria and Africa as whole.
Engaging Nigerian Stakeholders
During the visit to Nigeria, KAF president met with key stakeholders in public and private sectors and also visited Nigeria-Korea Model School in Abuja respectively.
His Excellency, Kim Young-Chae, held discussion with Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, His Excellency, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo and officials of the ministry in his office in Abuja.
Also, he held consultation with Nigeria’s Honorable Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba in his office in Abuja. Both Korea and Nigeria shared knowledge and ideas on how to collaborate in power sector as a vital area of investment for both partners on August 30, 2022.
In addition, Ambassador Woon-ki had audience with senior officials of Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by Mr. Tunde Mustapha, Regional Director and Mr. Bello Husseini, Chief of Protocol of Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how Nigeria and Korea will further strengthen collaborations and partnerships. In the same vein, KAF president meet with Professor Eghosa E. Osaghae, Director General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA) on possible areas of collaborations and partnership.
In the same vein, KAF team meet with organise private sector led by President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture NACCIMA, Mr. John C. Udeagbala, at his office in Abuja, Nigeria along other its officials. NACCIMA, a group of organize private sector actors in Nigeria. In continuation the engagement with private sector, KAF team held consultation with Mr. Ade Ogundeyin, President of Proforce Ltd. a security system and Car Company in Nigeria.
see first-hand South Korea’s social investment supporting access to education in Nigeria, KAF president undertook visit to Korea Nigeria Model School, Abuja, Nigeria, where he was received by management and staff of the school. The school is fully funded by Government of Republic of Korea to support Government of Nigeria goal of providing access to quality education to its citizens. It provides conducive learning environment for leaners and equipped with modern learning facilities including ICT, spacious class rooms, among others for Nigerian children. The facility is managed by Education Resources Centre of Federal Capital Territory Administration, a Nigeria government agency.
Positive Reviews on KAF Engagement
In addition to success stories from the visit to Nigeria, Ambassador Woon-ki noted that KAF engages with Korean on opportunities and positive developments in Nigeria, projecting her in good light. KAF is intentional about promoting Nigeria’s image in South Korea to encourage Korean investors and businesses to embrace huge opportunities in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, the news out there about Nigeria portrays the country as a dangerous place to live. However, my experience is completely different from what I read before coming. I have met a lot of Nigerians these last few days since I came into the country and I can say they are warm and receptive people. Nigeria needs to do a lot more to portray her image of Nigeria abroad.”
Nigeria as Africa’s Market
With over 200 million population, Nigeria is ranked biggest economy in and largest market in Africa making it attractive for foreign direct investment due to high return on investment.
Incidentally, Nigeria is Republic of Korea largest trading partner in Africa with over US $2billion in 2021, while posting a total of $1.6 billion in first half of 2022. Investment opportunities across sectors including agriculture, communications, mining, oil and gas, maritime, construction, etc. Korean companies operating in Nigeria are key part of country’s expanding investment profile as Africa’s biggest market. Korean conglomerates in Nigeria include Samsung, LG, Kia, Hyundai etc.
For KAF boss, this maiden visit signals more opportunities toward expanding and shore up bilateral trade and economic cooperation between South Korea and Nigeria going forward. KAF seems committed to facilitate and nurture creatively new vistas of opportunities for Korea and Nigeria.
Brief Profile of Ambassador Lyeo Woon-ki
The President of Korea Africa Foundation, Ambassador Lyeo Woon-ki was appointed to head the organization in March 2021. In August 2022, he undertook his maiden visit to Nigeria as part of a three-nation Africa tour that took him to Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. This is a milestone for KAF, established by Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dedicated towards promoting increased trade relations and economic partnership between Republic of Korea and Africa’s 55-nations in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner.
Ambassador Woon-ki is a seasoned diplomat with tour of duty to several countries, served in Korean Foreign Service, held strategic diplomatic posts at various times. He was at one-time Ambassador of Republic of Korea to Ghana with accreditation to Togo and Benin; Ambassador to Republic of Ireland among other diplomatic posts. He has deep understanding of Africa affairs, a skill he brings to bear in his role as KAF President.
KAF is passionate about deepening Korea and Africa partnership and engagement on economy and bilateral trade, technology and innovations, ICT, education and skills transfer and cultural exchanges. This maiden visit to Nigeria and two other African countries according represents bold effort towards repositioning Korea-Africa bilateral trade and economic partnership and exploring untapped potentials.