Africa: Making a Future Together

African governments and institutions gathered in Seoul from June 4-5, 2024, for the inaugural Korea-Africa Summit to learn from Korea’s remarkable economic transformation and forge stronger partnerships for sustainable growth. The African Development Bank featured prominently in the proceedings, with President Dr Akinwumi Adesina leading a high-powered delegation to discuss ways to deepen cooperation between Korea and Africa under the theme “The Future We Make Together: Shared Growth, Sustainability, and Solidarity.”

At the opening session attended by heads of state and government, President Adesina delivered a powerful statement acknowledging Korea’s economic transformation from a struggling nation to a prosperous one within a generation. He urged African countries to find inspiration in the Korean story and pointed to the 42-year-old relationship between the Bank and the Republic of Korea, which has contributed around USD 800 million in investments to the Bank. Adesina called on the Korean government to increase its support by contributing to the next round of replenishment of the African Development Fund and other landmark investment initiatives of the Bank.

Beyond talk to action

The commitment to cooperation was concretized on the summit’s sidelines. The Bank signed two key agreements with Korean government agencies: a Memorandum of Understanding with the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-SURE), an export credit agency, and a Letter of Intent with the Korea Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development Corporation, “for cooperation to foster infrastructure and urban development in African countries.”

On the eve of the Summit’s opening day, President Adesina met with the Korean Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Song Mi-ryung, for the first time. He expressed his delight at meeting Song, who is also an agricultural economist.

“I have in Korea an agricultural economist with whom I can speak the same language, and we understand each other,” he said.

Climate change featured prominently in the discussions, acknowledged as a shared and pressing challenge–extreme weather patterns everywhere from Kenya to Korea are affecting agricultural production and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of farmers and the larger population.

It was agreed that the solution was to intensify the rollout of smart agriculture, which incorporates new and emerging technologies that allow for better predictions of climate patterns, higher quality data for farmers, and less water usage, among other advantages to traditional farming.

Success stories

Adesina enumerated the Bank’s extensive work in agriculture to Song, starting with”Feed Africa”, one of the High-5s priorities he launched when he took office in 2015.

“The Bank has a Feed Africa Strategy, and we are putting $25 billion into agriculture over a 10-year period,” he said.

He went on to share various agricultural initiatives by the Bank:

  • TAAT (Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation), which, by providing heat-tolerant wheat varieties to farmers in Ethiopia, has allowed the country to become self-sufficient in wheat production within five years.
  • The FEED Africa Summit in Dakar in January 2023, which mobilized $72 billion in investment commitments from countries and development partners.
  • Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) being developed in 22 sites across 11 African countries.
  • The Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth program, which has invested about $500 million in 15 African countries, to attract young people into agriculture.
  • The $650 million Regional West Africa Rice Development (REWARD) program, in 16 countries.

Minister Song praised agriculture as one of the areas responsible for Korea’s economic transformation from aid-recipient to donor-country. Having achieved self-sufficiency in rice production, Korea is now keenly assisting African countries to do the same, she added.

At the G7 Summit in 2023, Korea launched its K-Ricebelt initiative to provide high-yielding rice seeds to African countries, with plans to expand the number of beneficiaries.

“There’s a perfect synergy between K-RICE and our REWARD program,” Adesina responded. “You can count on 100% support and partnership from the African Development Bank. Between Korea and the Bank, we can make Africa completely self-sufficient in rice.”

Priorities for the future

Minister Song and President Adesina stressed the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation.

Song described Korea’s three priorities in agriculture–digital transformation, generational transformation, and regional transformation.

For President Adesina, the Bank’s new Ten-Year Strategy, approved by the Board in April, envisions scaling-up investment in agriculture to accelerate economic growth and prosperity across Africa.

Areas identified by Song and Adesina for immediate cooperation include rice value chain development in Africa, increased bilateral exchange of agricultural data and information, training and capacity building for African farmers, and technology transfer to Africa, including in hydroponics, where Korea has become a world leader.

Korea-Africa Agricultural Forum: “Agricultural Unity Across Korea and Africa”

The following day, the Bank participated in an agricultural forum, co-hosted by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Rural Development Administration.

Osamu Kawanishi, Director of the Bank’s Asia External Representation Office, presented a paper and participated in a panel discussion featuring officials from a host of international agencies–Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Program, Green Climate Fund, and the Africa Rice Center.

Kawanishi’s presentation noted existing bilateral cooperation between the Korean Government and the Bank, through the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Trust Fund.

KOAFEC was established by the government of Korea and is managed by the African Development Bank. Since inception, it has made $10 million available in loans and grants to support agriculture projects on the continent.

Kawanishi also identified various opportunities for additional investments in African agriculture, based on the Bank’s target of mobilizing the financing required to achieve an additional 100 million metric tonnes of food production by 2025.

In addition, he spotlighted the deepened focus of the Bank’s new Ten-Year Strategy, on SAPZ, investing in climate-smart agriculture, supporting research and development, and improving nutritional outcomes.

Weaving friendship with rice

Outside the conference hall, the Korean government displayed its advances in rice research and innovation.

A compelling showcase on the K-Ricebelt initiative displayed samples of new and improved rice varieties developed for cultivation in beneficiary African countries, while a K-Food Experience Zone laid out an assortment of Korean rice-based foods and drinks.

Inspiring narratives of how far the country has come from the 1950s when it experienced crippling food shortages and a powerful message of hope to African countries still on the journey to agricultural self-sufficiency.

At the conclusion of his bilateral meeting with Minister Song, President Adesina promised to return to Korea soon. “This is my seventh time coming to Korea, I look forward to coming back again.”

On his list of things to see on that next trip: Korea’s smart agriculture in operation and its famous urban farms.

This is a measure of his keenness to see as many Korean success stories as possible first-hand and, even more importantly, to see the African Development Bank at the center of facilitating the transfer of Korean agricultural expertise and experience to African contexts.

The Bank’s delegation included Ambassador Edmond Raphaël Wega, Executive Director of the Bank Group representing Canada, China, Kuwait, Korea and Turkey; Amadou Hott, Special Presidential Envoy and global champion for the Bank’s Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa.