South Korean Minister moves to boost trade with Nigeria

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Troubled by the dwindling trade between Nigeria and South Korea, the South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister, Choi Jong-gun has visited Nigeria and held high-level meetings with senior Nigerian ministers.

Foreign Minister Choi Jong-gun visited Nigeria on his last visit to three African countries – Morocco, Senegal, and Nigeria between August the 14th and 19th this year. This visit was the first visit of the Korean Vice Minister in West Africa.

In a series of engagements with the Minister of Defence, Major Geneneral Bashir Magashi (rtd); Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, a meeting was organised and held on the 19th of August 2021.

The discussions focused on ways to develop bilateral relations, including cooperation on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The two sides agreed to further expand economic cooperation while agreeing that there is a great potential for cooperation between Korea, which has technological prowess, and Nigeria, which has population and resources.

During the talk sessions, both sides agreed the need to reorganise all agreements, such as the double taxation prevention agreement and the revision of the investment protection agreement, under the common recognition that it is important to prepare an institutional basis for expanding economic cooperation.

The Korean official emphasised the need to conduct business in a friendly environment by resolving the difficulties faced by Korean companies that have invested in Nigeria. The Ministry of Transport pledged to resolve the outstanding issues in order to fundamentally resolve the problem faced by Korean companies operating in Nigeria.

Despite the huge investments made into the country over the past decades, Nigeria is yet to benefit from the global conglomerate’s skills and technology transfer as well as the foreign investor’s huge investment potentials. This is because the government has yet to give them the necessary incentives and support even though these types of companies are already in the country.

The issues faced by foreign investors in Nigeria is not just limited to Korean companies. For instance, Africa’s biggest grocery retailer and South African-owned chain of stores, Shoprite, announced its exit from Nigeria after 15 years of operation.

Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, in April had lamented that the trade between both countries had slumped by 74 per cent from $5 million in 2018 to $1.3 million in 2019.

Adebayo, who spoke when he received the South Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Kim Young-Chae, in his office, had noted that both countries shared strong economic and investment ties with over 20 Korean companies, including Samsung Heavy Industries and Hyundai Heavy Industries, presently operating in the country.

One notable mention at the meeting was Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria who have been involved in a protracted dispute with its local partner.

With the visit of the South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister to Nigeria, it is expected that the Nigerian government will address the challenges facing the South Korean companies operating in Nigeria.

Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) is one of the global conglomerates and reputable investors from South Korea that has established a strong presence in Nigeria. SHI established its subsidiary, Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited (SHIN) 10 years ago and made an investment of over $300 million dollars in Nigeria to construct West Africa’s most advanced fabrication and integration yard.

The company has made tremendous contributions to the Nigerian economy since its establishment and has contributed significantly in creating jobs while helping Nigerians acquire skills and opening up the Nigerian economy.

Through Egina project, Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria employed over 3,000 Nigerians and spent 560,000 man-hours training locals with no prior experience in the shipbuilding and welding industry. It is widely known that over $1.6 billion in economic contributions was made through the project.

The past 10 years has not been a smooth sail for SHIN though as the company is not insulated from the challenges in the Nigerian operating environment. Despite the challenges facing its operations, SHIN has remained undaunted due to its faith in Nigeria and its long-term commitment to the country.

Commendably, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had granted a direct lease to SHIN for the SHI-MCI yard in Tarkwa Bay Lagos, following an investigation by NPA which concluded that its local partner had infringed contractual obligations resulting to the revocation of their Lease with NPA.

Currently, the Lagos High Courts have upheld this decision and it would be pivotal for the Federal Government to respect these judgements in order to give confidence to foreign investors.

The decision of NPA was not just for the protection of the foreign investors to enable their long-term stable operation, but is essential for Nigeria and its economy.

To ensure Nigeria benefits the most from the presence of the foreign investors through industry training and skill transfer, the Federal Government should, also in return, provide the enabling environment for the investors by guaranteeing the protection of the investments and operations in the country for at least 20-30 years.

This will enable Nigeria to take a big leap forward in technological advancement and social development.

During the meeting, both sides also agreed to hold the sixth Korea-Nigeria Joint Committee in Korea in the near future to discuss issues of common interest.

In addition, both sides also decided to continue high-level exchanges by taking advantage of opportunities such as the UN Peacekeeping Ministers’ Meeting to be held in Seoul in December 2021, and the Korea-Africa Forum.

In view of the peculiar challenges facing Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria in its operational base in Lagos, which has become protracted, the company needs urgent support from the Federal Government agencies. The Federal Government and Ministry of Transport should endeavour to make the necessary efforts to protect the Foreign investor and restore confidence to the Korean Government.

With the visit of the South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister to Nigeria, it is expected that the Nigerian government will address the challenges facing the South Korean companies operating in the region. Industry experts and stakeholders will be hoping for swift actions from the Government to implement these protectionist measures in order to fast track beneficiaries to the Nation.

Read next: Nigerian waterways’ safety improved through SHIN and NIWA’s strategic alliance

Can BTS Make the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip a Must-Have Phone?

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Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the company’s most definitively fashion-oriented phone. It looks cool on screen, and feels even cooler when you’re holding it in your hand. Seeking that elusive it factor, Samsung took its collaboration with pop group BTS to a new level in 2021.

BTS has been Samsung ambassadors since 2020. This year, though, Samsung got BTS member SUGA to remix its theme tune, “Over the Horizon.” I can’t emphasize how much OTH is attached to Samsung’s identity; it’s been the company’s theme since 2011 and it’s the default ringtone on all Samsung smartphones.

While there have been plenty of other Samsung musical partnerships over the years, including other remixes of “Over the Horizon” (and personally, I’ll never forget 2007’s Beyonce Phone), the BTS “ARMY” are a rare cultural phenomenon. They’re passionately coherent and organized in the way many fandoms aren’t. So the ability to have a SUGA version of your phone’s theme tune —as well as the implied promise of more exclusive BTS content in the future—could push phones in a way that, say, Robert Downey Jr failed to do for HTC.

Especially in the US, no level of marketing dollar has been able to pry iPhones out of celebrities’ hands, or reduce the stigma of “green bubbles” among well-off youth. (On iMessage, texts from Android phones appear in green.) We’ve seen a lot of celebrity promoters briefly wave around a phone at an event, and then sit down and send out their own tweets “posted by Twitter from iPhone.” It happens over and over again.

BTS, on the other hand, are from Korea, where Samsung has a much more powerful (and patriotic) cultural profile and Apple is a foreigner. While the pop group’s fans are global, it’s possible that the stars themselves may feel more of a connection to Samsung than to Apple.

The relationship between BTS and its fans is an intense thing. I tweeted jokingly about how the remix means that Samsung has now hit the big time in Korea, and the tweet got more than 158,000 impressions in two hours. I am not that big a deal. The BTS ARMY is.

So I posed the question: would this get them to put their money where their love is?

And the answer is—it looks like there’s a chance. To listen to the fans, they trust that BTS have a real connection with Samsung.

I’m a phone analyst, with a specialty in 5G, who doesn’t know much about K-pop. But this seems like the ultimate test of a celebrity endorsement. I’ll be curious to see if the ARMY mobilizes to make Z Flip sales flip out.

What’s Samsung chief’s next move?

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All eyes are on Lee Jae-yong’s next move after the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, released from jail on parole on Friday, set about saving the nation’s pandemic-hit economy.Straight from the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province, where he served 60 percent of his 2 1/2-year sentence, Lee went to the Samsung headquarters in Seocho, southern Seoul, and stayed there until night. He was reported to have received a briefing from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam and met with the chiefs of other Samsung Group companies.Despite expectations that he would play a role in revitalizing the economy or solving the nationwide vaccine shortage, it is unclear how he could do either of those things considering his parole conditions.Lee, who was found guilty of misappropriating company funds worth 8.6 billion won ($7.3 million) to pay bribes to former President Park Geun-hye, can’t join Samsung Electronics’ board or take on any other official position.In South Korea, those convicted of embezzling 500 million won or more are banned from working for companies related to their crimes for five years after serving their terms.Samsung says Lee is exempt from those restrictions as he technically doesn’t work for Samsung anymore, having left the board in 2019 and received no salary ever since.“The parole terms are actually in the gray area. (But we understand that) Lee was released so that he could get into work,” a high-ranking Samsung official said.Despite criticism from civic groups that the parole system is being abused as yet another get-out-of-jail-free card for the privileged, the authorities have given the green light to Lee’s economic activities.On the day of release, President Moon Jae-in, who built his leftist administration on a commitment to social justice, asked for the people’s understanding, saying the decision was in the national interest. Justice Minister Park Beom-kye, who granted parole for Lee, said he had considered “the economic situation under the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.”Expectations are running high that Lee’s release could signal Samsung’s investment plans getting back on track, after his absence put a halt to them.One of Samsung Electronics’ goals is to invest 171 trillion won by 2030 and become the No. 1 global foundry player. The most urgent task is finalizing the firm’s plans to build a second chip plant in the US worth $17 billion, a decision that can’t be made without Lee. Industry officials warn that if Samsung misses its chance to make a timely investment, there won’t be another chance to catch up with TSMC.TSMC, which controls 50 percent of the world’s foundry market by market share, announced in April that it would invest $100 billion over the next three years and build six chip plants in the US.Intel, which announced its reentry into the foundry market, is reportedly mulling the acquisition of the world’s No. 3 player, GlobalFoundries, for $30 billion. If that move is successful, the major foundry players will be narrowed down to TSMC, Samsung Electronics and Intel.Chips account for 20 percent of Korea’s exports, and Samsung’s massive investment could reinvigorate the domestic chip industry.Samsung officials and watchers say the firm could also benefit from Lee’s personal business networks in navigating through the cutthroat technology competition, as well as the global supply chain reorganization pushed by the US and other major economies.In October Lee met with top executives of ASML, the world’s leading photolithography equipment maker, at company headquarters in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. During the meeting Lee discussed the development of next-generation chip technology with ASML CEO Peter Wennink and ASML Chief Technology Officer Martin van den Brink.Lee’s release is also expected to accelerate Samsung SDI’s plans to build its first US battery factory. On the day of Lee’s release, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said in a press conference that there were discussions about bringing in a “major Samsung battery facility” during a meeting with Korean delegates last week.While the decision has not been finalized, said Durbin, the facility could possibly be next to electric vehicle startup Rivian, which said in April that it would source electric vehicle batteries from Samsung SDI.Above all, the industry is paying keen attention to whether Lee can once again step up as Korea’s “vaccine ambassador.”On the day of Lee’s release, Korea dispatched a delegation to meet with Moderna representatives over the delay in shipments of vaccines, as the US firm plans to send less than half of the 8.5 million doses it had pledged to send over this month.It remains to be seen how Lee could intervene. Previously, he acted as a bridge between the Korean government and Pfizer.The Korean government had no communication channels with the top leadership of Pfizer until early December, when Lee used his personal network and sought the help of Shantanu Narayen, chairman of the US computer software company Adobe, who was an independent director of Pfizer.Lee and Narayen first met at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2011. The Adobe chairman visited Seoul to meet Lee later the same year, and the two have maintained ties ever since.In December, Lee personally phoned Narayen, according to local media.The Samsung chief was introduced to the head of Pfizer’s vaccine business by the Adobe chairman, providing the Korean government with a way to launch negotiations with the US company.In April, Seoul announced that it had secured enough additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people.By Kim Byung-wook (