Singapore seeks stronger trading ties with Africa

Africa has strong trade links with the likes of India, China and Europe, but businesses in Singapore are urging the continent not to overlook the ASEAN region. They argue that there are profitable trade opportunities and project partners in the area and that they are ready and eager to establish more links with Africa.

“The next focus of Africa should be the ASEAN region” says Vice Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the country’s non-resident ambassador to Nigeria Shabbir Hassanbhai; “we have an about-600 million population. Africa always looks to China, India and Europe but there is a huge potential in the ASEAN region. African countries must change their focus because we are open to third-world country collaborations.”

Trade with Singapore is on the rise

The governmental agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore reports that there are currently over 60 Singaporean companies operating in more than 50 African nations. The past decade has seen a tripling of trade between Africa and Singapore, with 2013 accruing US$12 billion in trade. Over the past five years Singapore’s investments into Africa have had a compound annual growth off 11.2 percent, amounting to roughly US$16 billion.

“We need to do some catch-up with some African countries like China and India have done,” says Ambassador Hassanbhai. “Since 2010, we have had about 19 trade missions go to Africa which have received positive reactions.” IE Singapore has recently established offices in Johannesburg and Accra in order to foster growth and new deals in those regions.

Hassanbhai has indicated that the following areas are some of the ripest for mutually beneficial partnerships between African and ASEAN businesses: agriculture, poverty alleviation programmes, transport and logistics, manufacturing, and financing. “These are areas where Singapore have an expertise that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.”

Africa Singapore Business Forum

From 27-28 August the Waterfront Hotel in Singapore will be hosting the Africa Singapore Business Forum, which will attempt to foster greater investment and commerce between the two. Singapore, like much of the rest of the world, sees the fast-burgeoning African market as the next business frontier, and many African businesses look to Singapore as offering needed expansion and financing capabilities.

ASEAN consists of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Brunei and Myanmar. Singapore – a first-world city state, prosperous and densely populated – holds a strategic position within ASEAN, offering a gateway to the rest of the region both from a commercial point of view as well as a geographic one. The country has well-developed infrastructure connecting it with the mainland countries and is a regional business hub. It is in fact Asia’s most competitive country and the world’s easiest place to do business.

Topics on the agenda at the August Business Forum include:

  • Addressing consumer demand in Africa: The next frontier
  • Africa’s oil & gas boom: Opportunities for partnership with Singapore
  • Agri-business and food processing in Africa
  • Transport & logistics in Africa: Connecting a continent


David Okwara

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