South Korea Courts SACU

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

Namibia is among the few countries in Africa targeted by South Korea to sign Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in different economic ventures, a report in the Korean Times has revealed.

South Korea is looking to boost economic ties with African countries to secure oil, natural gas and other natural resources as well as entering the unexplored markets on the continent.

The report says the South Korean government is planning and seeking ways to sign FTAs with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), consisting of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa.

According to the report, the South Korean government intends to expand the number of diplomatic posts on the continent to provide logistics and administrative support to local energy and construction companies operating in Africa.

It also intends to ask African governments to allow Korean businesses to participate in oil and other natural resource development ventures.

The South Korean government also indicated it will increase low interest loans to Africa from US$35 million in 2006 to US$700 million by 2011. Grants and other aid amounting to US$61 million will be granted by 2009.

Africa has of late attracted attention from China and other resource-hungry economies.

Last year, the President of China, Hu Jintao, visited a number of nations on the continent and offered financial aid and other assistance worth billions of dollars.

In Namibia, the Chinese President pledged N$933 million (RMB1 billion) in concessionary loans and US$100 million in preferential export buyers’ credit.

About N$28 million (RMB30 million) in grants and another N$28 million (RMB30 million) in interest-free loans were also pledged during Jintao’s visit.

The Chinese President said China would also help build two rural schools and one hospital. Because Namibia is among China’s tourist destinations, some of the money would go towards boosting its market share of the rapidly expanding Chinese tourism industry, particularly group tours.

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