Many may not be aware of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s cozy and lucrative relationship with African countries. Following earlier attempts to establish links with some nations on the Continent through the provision of aid programs, this relationship has intensified with North Korea currently having embassies in 11 out of 54 African countries.
The motives of North Korea are, however, controversial. In contrast to the sanctions imposed on the country by the UN and many Western nations, it has been reported that North Korea has been using African nations as a revenue source. Specifically, the DPRK builds infrastructure for African countries for a profit. The country also sells military equipment, including weapons. Recently, a UN report revealed that weapons barred by UN sanctions were found in more than six African countries. Despite the tough sanctions, North Korea has been able to avoid them in a seemingly quiet continent. The report details how the largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the country was discovered en route to Egypt. The ammunition included 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades, carefully hidden under wrought iron. The intended destination of this ammunition was, however, unknown.
Prior to the seizure, a member state of the United Nations seized an air shipment that contained military radio communication. The shipment was destined for an Eritrean company, the second time military items have been captured during transportation between the two nations. Namibia is also said to have close ties with North Korea. In 2016, the country violated UN sanctions and stayed tied to North Korea commercially. The country has contracted with North Korean companies for the construction of a munition factory. Many African nations are obliged to cut their interactions with North Korea after the UN sanctions were imposed but many have not. This may be partly due to the fact that ties go beyond just commerce. More than a few countries will also find it hard to relinquish this relationship because they were aided by North Korea during their independence struggles.
Some African nations are, however, not too welcoming to the advancement of North Korea in Africa. The US ambassador to the UN gave a warning to the countries violating sanctions, noting that the United Nations will cut off trade ties with the countries. The United States also trades with many African countries and contributes to initiatives in different sectors.