Korea, Africa jointly organize inaugural youth camp

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Korea-Africa Foundation President Choi Yeon-ho delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Korea-Africa Youth Camp at Seoul Olympic Parktel in Songpa-gu, southern Seoul, Aug. 6. / The Korea-Africa Foundation

By Yi Whan-woo

Africa is a “young” continent, with about 70 percent of its population aged 30 or younger.

This suggests youth cooperation is essential for any country that wants to get close with Africa in the long term.

Accordingly, Korea took a step closer with the inaugural Korea-Africa Youth Camp which was held from Aug. 6 to 12 in Seoul and North Jeolla Province’s Gimje and Muju.

Forty teenage students from each Korea and 12 African countries participated in the weeklong event co-hosted by The Korea-Africa Foundation (KAF) and Jeollabuk-do Center for International Affairs.

The 12 were Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The 2019 Korea-Africa Youth Camp took place as the African Union (AU), a group of 55 African countries aimed at regional solidarity, is striving to transform the continent into a global powerhouse by 2063 under the Agenda 2063 initiative.

The camp activities were designed to acquaint participants with each other’s cultures and histories, facilitate mutual understanding and nurture future-oriented mindsets as well as entrepreneurship in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Activities included visits to Gyeongbok Palace, the National Museum of Korea, a K-pop museum and supertall skyscraper Lotte World Tower, as well as watching a taekwondo demonstration, learning about IT and agrobiotechnology and group projects.

The camp was also designed to serve the purpose of the KAF. Launched in June 2018 under the wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it promotes partnership between Korea and Africa in politics, economy, culture and academics among others.

Two teenagers from Africa and Korea make pledges on behalf of all participating students during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Korea-Africa Youth Camp at Seoul Olympic Parktel in Songpa-gu, southern Seoul, Aug. 6. / The Korea-Africa Foundation

“In this connection, the main objective of this camp is to lay the foundation for sustained and mutually beneficial networks between Korean and African youth through cultural exchanges and interactive activities,” KAF President Choi Yeon-ho said during an opening ceremony at Seoul Olympic Parktel in Songpa-gu, southern Seoul, Aug. 6. “Without a doubt, we would agree that the youth is the most important bridge between Korea and Africa. I wish that Korean and African students here today will be able to forge friendships that last.”

Choi was joined by Secretary-General Lee Young-ho of Jeollabuk-do Center for International Affairs, which is affiliated with the North Jeolla provincial government.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Group of Ambassadors in Korea and the National Assembly’s Forum for Africa’s New Era were also present.

They were Director-General for African and Middle Eastern Affairs Hong Jin-wook of the ministry and ambassadors as well as other embassy officers from Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zambia, all of them AU members.

Secretary-General Lee said there are still many Koreans with “less exposure” to Africa’s diverse cultures, economies and politics despite globalization.

“On the other hand, global communities and organizations perceive Africa with largest natural resources and predict Africa to be one of the fastest growing economy in the world,” he said. “In light of this development, I strongly believe students will be the key enablers to further make a difference in the world.”

He added, through the camp, the participants can “have a better understanding of respective cultures, respect each other and utilize this occasion to become global leaders in this fast-growing world.”

In her congratulatory speech, Rwandan Ambassador to Korea Emma-Francoise Isumbingabo referred to the latest collaborative efforts in Korea.

Among them are the 2018 founding of KAF and 2018 and 2019 celebrations of Africa Day, which marks the establishment of the AU’s predecessor — the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) — on May 25, 1963.

Such efforts, together with intra-Africa economic bloc African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other ongoing AU initiatives, increase opportunities for partnership in every sector, according to Ambassador Isumbingabo.

She said the camp was expected to provide the students with “tools” for enhancing partnerships.

“And I once again am grateful to the organizers of this camp, because it is a platform for forging long-lasting relationships that will be of benefit for both Korea and the African continent,” she added.

Director-General Hong underlined that Seoul Olympic Parktel is a part of Olympic Park built in commemoration of the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics.

“At this very park that keeps the Olympic spirit in its heart, I truly hope for this Youth Camp to become the opportunity for potential leaders from Korean and Africa to gather around and draw pictures of a peaceful, harmonious and prosper future together,” Hong said.