HOME > SOCIETY
Korea-Africa Day in Burkina Faso
Chair of Global Education Cooperation
Graduate School, Seoul National University;
Co-Chair of Educators Without Borders
Africa is transforming into a continent of hope day by day. Last December, the Economist highlighted the continent`s remarkable change in an article titled “Africa Rising.” According to the weekly magazine, some African countries recorded higher economic growth rates than Asian powers in the past 10 years. The annual growth rates of Botswana (8.8 percent), South Africa (8.6 percent) and Namibia (6.8 percent) are comparable to South Korea`s growth rates in the 1970s. Macroeconomic indicators forecast the “African lions” will outstrip “Asian tigers” sooner or later.
These African countries that are drawing global attention for their notable transformation regard South Korea as an exemplary development model. Korea`s experience in “creating something from nothing” is recognized as a valuable asset. The World Bank and other international organizations have intensively supported Africa`s development in recent years, conveying the message, “You can make it if you do just like Korea.” Specialists from international organizations also advise African countries to improve their standard of education and make it the driving force of development, as Korea did.
As it is widely known, Korea overcame colonial exploitation, fratricidal war, extreme poverty and dictatorial oppression to achieve growth, an unprecedented series of achievements in world history. Our nation achieved the three daunting challenges of decolonization, industrialization and democratization at the same time, thanks to the development of our formal and non-formal educational systems.
It is no surprise that Korea is one of the first countries to acknowledge Africa`s rise. In 2010, Seoul hosted the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Ministerial Conference under the theme of “Rising Africa, Together with Korea.” On the occasion of this biannual conference, the Korean government earmarked 10 billion won (approximately US$10 million) for the KOAFEC Trust Fund to be offered as grants to African countries.
Among the various projects to be funded is a future leadership program for scholars, dubbed the “Education Research Award” (ERA), which may be seen as Korea`s version of the U.S. Fulbright Scholarship Program. Under this program three African doctorate holders in education of junior to mid-career levels are invited to Korea every year to study the nation`s experience in educational development
The benefits from Africa`s abundant natural resources, such as diamond, natural gas and uranium, are largely short-term profits and prone to corruption and abuse by dictatorial regimes, aggravating inequality and tribal conflicts toward self-destruction. In contrast, development cooperation based on knowledge sharing will help pave the foundation for effective governance, transparency and the rule of law, leading to long-term development. Many government and private sector leaders in Africa are therefore showing enthusiastic interest in Korea`s knowledge-sharing programs.
Of particular note, the first “Korea-Africa Day” designated by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) was celebrated on February 12, in a Korea-Africa conference on knowledge sharing held in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries on the continent. The triennial ADEA conference attracted some 1,000 participants, including African heads of state, ministerial-level officials and educational leaders as well as delegates from international development agencies.
The Korean delegation, consisting of 60 members, introduced our nation`s experiences in educational development under 11 themes and announced a mid- to long-term plan for the development of Korea-Africa educational cooperation. Korea`s experience is a precious legacy for the global community. For many countries struggling to reduce poverty and achieve national development, Korea`s experience can be even more valuable than monetary assistance. Therefore, knowledge sharing with Africa should begin with providing our development experience carefully tailored to meet the needs of individual nations.