This year marks the 56th anniversary since our two countries established diplomatic relations. After establishing ties, the two countries have steadily advanced bilateral relations. It is worth noting that recently, there have been dramatic advances in our bilateral development cooperation.
Korea’s annual Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Uganda increased by more than 42 times over the last decade, recording $29m (Shs106b) in 2017. Still, Korea’s ODA towards Uganda is small compared to other large donors in terms of quantity.
However, Korea’s strength in development cooperation does not come from size but from Korea’s unique development experience and common historical legacy. Korea is the only country among those colonised before World War I, which transformed from the least developed country to an advanced economy and full democracy.
Korea experienced devastating civil war as did Uganda. I believe Korea’s experience makes Korea a like-minded and empathetic friend of Uganda, with whom we are eager to share our development experiences. In this context, Korea’s development projects in Uganda are being implemented by the very people who have first-hand expertise in recovering from extreme poverty and ruins of war and transforming the country into the world’s 11th largest economy.
As laid out by Korea’s Partnership Strategy 2016-2020, our partnership envisions to assist Uganda to achieve its Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan II. Korea works to achieve this vision through three priority cooperation areas: Rural development, education and healthcare, in which various multi-year projects in these areas have come to completion since last year.
Regarding cooperation in rural development, Korea focuses on empowering small and medium scale farmers, inclusive communities, and promoting agricultural value chain. Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) completed Saemaul Model Village project last November, which draws from Korea’s rural development based on cultivation of self-reliance and community governance.
Over 4,700 beneficiaries of the project not only succeeded in raising household income, but also improved governance and social capital in their communities.
KOICA also completed construction of a fruit processing factory in Soroti, a project which has created more than 1,000 jobs and boosts agro-industrialisation. In addition to KOICA, Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) Uganda Centre, works to assist rural development focusing on raising agricultural productivity by carrying out research on high value-added and disease resistant agricultural produces and disseminating efficient farming techniques.
Education and training is Korea’s another priority cooperation area because Korea has much to offer from its successful experience in human capital investment and nurturing high-caliber workforce needed for skilling Uganda’s abundant young population and sustained industrialisation.
In the realm of healthcare, Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH), a public organisation dedicated to international healthcare cooperation, opened its office in Uganda last year. KOFIH has officiated strengthening healthcare system project in the greater Masaka region. KOICA also recently completed a three-year maternal and child health project which contributed to enhancing capacity of primary health care facilities to provide quality services to over 55,000 beneficiaries in Iganga and Kamuli districts.
In addition to implementation of ongoing development projects, Korea is keen to increase trade and investment as well as to expand human, academic, cultural exchanges between our two countries. I am confident that the recent achievements as well as our accumulated mutual trust and understanding will be milestones that improve wellbeing of Ugandans and allow the people of our two countries to become closer friends.
Mr Byung-Kyoo is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Uganda.