The Korea Herald

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Golden opportunity to strengthen ties with Nigeria

By Choi He-suk

Published : Oct. 24, 2022 - 19:11

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Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Federal Republic of Nigeria Kim Young-chae. Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Federal Republic of Nigeria Kim Young-chae.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is visiting Korea to attend the "World Bio Summit," which is co-organized by the Korean government and WHO (World Health Organization).

Due to geographical distance, Nigeria is not well-known to the Korean public. However, Nigeria has the biggest economy in Africa; with the world’s 6th largest population of 220 million; and abundant natural resources. Nigeria plays the leading role in West Africa and the African Union. It is also an active participant in international arenas, with its nationals currently holding important positions such as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, President of the African Development Bank, and Chairman of the African Union Peace and Security Committee. As with its soft power, such as literature, music, movies, fashion and sports. Nigeria’s movie industry, known as Nollywood, enjoys huge appeal in Africa and beyond.

Nigeria defied gloomy predictions of the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by achieving 3.4 percent economic growth in 2021. Still, the challenges it faces are daunting. Its population explosion, currently 5.3 children per family, consumes most of its economic growth. In addition, climate change is impacting negatively over the region. These internal and external factors make it hard for the economy to grow on a per capita basis. This is one of major factors contributing to the security challenges.

Overcoming security challenges and providing jobs for the younger generation are therefore its top national priorities. For this, Nigeria is improving the environment to attract foreign direct investment, focusing on manufacturing and agriculture. In the year 1960, when Nigeria became an independent nation, its economy was similar to Korea’s. What Korea has achieved during the last 60 years is something Nigeria highly appreciates and hopes to benchmark on. KOICA is implementing several projects in e-government, education and training. Nigeria appreciates Korea's development cooperation, but it also wants Korean companies to trade and invest more, which will help create jobs and expand the tax base.

Africa is emerging as a single integrated market by combining 54 states into the AfCFTA (African Continent Free Trade Area). Africa’s population of 1.3 billion and an economy of $3.4 trillion make it a very attractive market and a competitive production base. As East Asia has played the dominant role in production within the global supply chain, Africa has the potential to be an alternative for global manufacturing companies.

President Buhari’s visit to Korea is timely, particularly for the cooperation in the vaccine and bio industry. Diseases like malaria and yellow fever are not yet eradicated in Nigeria, affecting economic development, not to mention public health. The challenge is daunting, but surmountable through global cooperation and by developing a health-related manufacturing base. Nigeria is designated by WHO as a regional hub for vaccine production, and so is Korea as the WHO global training hub. "If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together." This is an African proverb that aptly describes the bilateral cooperation on public health.

Korea and Nigeria share a deep commitment to the principles of democracy, a market economy, human rights and global cooperation. Korea's plan to realize the "global pivot" will fit well with Nigeria's foreign policy objectives, so both countries can achieve their goals of peace, prosperity and progress.

By Kim Young-chae, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Federal Republic of Nigeria