How Korea’s knowledge sharing programme redefines foreign aid assistance

Thursday May 17 2018


By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. A few years after independence from colonial rule a country goes to war. All that is left, when the ceasefire is proclaimed, is rubble. People survive on food donations from generous countries. The per capita income is barely $30. But as tranquility ushers in the countrymen and women go to work in a determination and self-drive that is rare in the history of the world. Five decades later the country has not only risen from the rubbles of war to prosperity but has also become of the one the most technologically advanced in the world.

That country is South Korea. Now, when a country becomes prosperous it is only fair that it tries to share its wealth with the less rich countries through official development assistance (ODA), as it has been the norm. In 1991, exactly 40 years after the end of the Korean war, South Korea started aiding poor countries various sectors such as education, health and agriculture.


But ODA has its own history and politics in the world. Decades of ODA to poor countries, especially those in Africa, have not produced results that were expected. This has been so, more precisely for ODA from the West that critics say is attached to conditionalities that make its use difficult by the intended countries.


Sharing knowledge and experience

Most of the countries that offer ODA to Tanzania and other African countries entered the 20th century already highly advanced economically and technologically. Some of these countries also were responsible for partitioning and colonizing Africa.


The relations between these Western countries and Africa is still regarded as to at the master-servant level.


Being colonized itself, and with its economy at par with that of African countries when they were attaining independence in the 1960s, Korea understands the historical experience of African countries and sharing its valuable experience can help African countries find a sense of direction.


But is ODA the way to go? Korean government officials are of the view that while ODA is still an effective way to help poor countries there is, however, a need for a more productive form of assistance. This new form of aid is a knowledge-driven economic cooperation programme that enables Korea to share its development experiences (knowledge) with the partner countries in a way that helps them transform their economies more rapidly, Suh Kyusik, director of International Economic Cooperation Strategy at the Korean ministry of Strategy and Finance told journalists recently in Sejong recently. This new form of partnership, which started in 2004 is called Knowledge Sharing Programme (KSP). Not only does it enable partner states to find development solutions themselves through “comprehensive policy consultations tailored to the needs of each partner country encompassing in-depth analysis and training opportunities,” said Suh.


“Korea epitomizes how knowledge is a pivotal factor in a nation’s socioeconomic development. In a single generation the country has transformed itself from a poverty-stricken basket case to a leading knowledge-based economy through knowhow gained and leanred from more developed economies,” Mr Suh noted.


He added; “KSP is, therefore, a new paradigm and major platform for economic cooperation aiming to share knowledge with its partners and develop a solid foundation for the expansion of economic and political cooperation.”


In the real sense of the term KSP goes beyond ODA. Official development assistance manly includes providing resources for development to partner states in terms financial aid, funding infrastructure construction, providing technical support and capacity building.


KSP pillars

According to Mr Suh, KSP is slightly different as it embarks on technical assistance and cooperation projects jointly with international organisations (IOs) that connect the lessons of Korea’s development experience with the regional expertise of IOs. Some of the IOs include Asia Development Bank, World Bank. All that is done through joint consultation which is the first pillar.


The second pillar is policy consultation. This is comprehensive consultation based on joint research conducted by experts of Korea and those of the KSP partner countries. “The policy consultation is bilateral and tailored to the needs of partner countries with the aim of providing customized solutions for each partner states,” Mr Suh said.

Policy consultation is done in areas of knowledge based-economy, SMEs development, financial services, e-government and ICT development and agriculture development. Others include infrastructure, human resources development, export promotion, socio-economic development strategy and energy and green growth

Another pillar of KSP is case study. This involves systematic documentation of Koreas’ development experience for effective knowledge sharing.


Some experts of international development assistance have, in various occasions, commented Korea’s KSP as a good initiative.

Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist from the Columbia University says Korea better placed to share its experience with developing countries because it was one not so long ago.

“Korea still has the memory of being a poor country and has the benefit of a wealthy country right now and that’s an experience that I think Korea can share with its partner countries in Africa and in Asia, and should share,” he says.


Suzan Reichle, an expert in international aid who once worked with the USAID says: Korea is a phenomenal example because it is a bridge between the least developed countries and the more developed countries.”


Mr Suh also said the KSP programme comes in handy as Korea launches its innovative programme strategy that aims at transforming the economy through technological innovation that caters for social needs and leads to a more inclusive economy.


“Through the KSP Korea can ben able to share the experience and benefits of innovative growth strategy,” Mr Suh noted.



KSP and Tanzania

Through the KSP programme the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC) worked together with the Deposit Insurance Board (DIB) to jointly modernise the deposit insurance system. This project started in the financial year 2011/12 and was expected to be completed in 2013/14. KDIC provided policy consultation regarding how Tanzania would build a deposit insurance system that matches the country’s circumstances, and laid out a roadmap for future development. The result of the project was the legislation of the Deposit Insurance System law.

Korean government experts assert that though KSP would work to supplement efforts done though ODA.