Thursday, 28 August 2014

S'pore keen to be part of Africa's growth story

The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcoming Nigeria's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Viola Onwuliri at the Istana yesterday. Africa is a continent on the move, and Singapore would like to be part of its growth story, said PM Lee during his meeting with ministers and senior officials from seven Sub-Saharan African countries: Angola, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Exchanging views on how to enhance bilateral engagement, the ministers said Africa can learn from Singapore's development experience in education, urban planning and harnessing human capital, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The group also wished to see more people-to-people exchanges and tourism flows.

PM Lee hoped the 3rd Africa-Singapore Business Forum (ASBF), organised by IE Singapore, which will be held here today and tomorrow, would help companies from both countries connect and identify joint business opportunities.

The delegates also visited the Hyflux Innovation Centre and attended a dinner hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Tap Africa for business opportunities: Tharman
Global economic trends favouring the continent
By Yasmine Yahya, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE firms have been encouraged to seize business opportunities in fast-emerging Africa as global economic trends favour the continent.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam suggested that Africa could present major openings as production costs rise in China's transformed economy.

"China has dominated manufacturing, particularly low-cost manufacturing, but China is becoming much more expensive, wages are rising quickly, they're trying to move up the value curve as well," he said yesterday.

As a result, many companies are shifting manufacturing out of China - a trend that Africa, with its rapidly growing middle-class consumer market, should capitalise on, he said.

"If you can bring manufacturing production closer to the market, I think that's a major economic opportunity. I think the future of Africa has to be about value-add - value-add processing and manufacturing for a growing market."

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking on a panel to about 600 government officials and business leaders from Singapore and Africa attending the Africa Singapore Business Forum held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

The views he hears from policymakers and business leaders regarding Africa today reflect positivity and optimism, he said, which is quite different from just five years ago.

"Everyone also knows that there is an unevenness across Africa. Some countries are more ready, some countries have moved ahead with significant governance reforms... and others are lagging behind. But even with the unevenness and lack of homogeneity, people now see opportunity in Africa."

Singapore companies have a role to play in Africa's future too, especially in areas such as port and airport services and urban solutions such as in water and waste treatment, which Singapore has a lot of experience in, Mr Tharman said.

"When we think of Africa, we must think of it as an opportunity to add value... introduce new ideas, new approaches and raise productivity. And there's tremendous scope for that in Africa right now."

Also on the panel was Mr Peter Matlare, chief executive (CEO) of South African consumer goods firm Tiger Brands.

His message to foreign investors seeking to do business in Africa: "We are not looking for new colonialists. We are looking for business partners who will grow with us as opposed to those who seek to simply invest and extract (wealth)."

Standard Chartered Bank's CEO for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, Mr V. Shankar, told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the forum that companies considering doing business in Africa tend to worry about the security issues there, the lack of infrastructure and the "sheer pain" of getting to the continent.

Singapore's trade with Africa has grown at a compound annual rate of close to 12 per cent over the past five years, reaching $14 billion last year. Investments by Singapore firms have reached $20 billion to date.

S'pore beefs up business ties with African nations
Agreements signed in areas ranging from aviation to education
By Yasmine Yahya, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE'S business ties with a range of African economies were boosted yesterday with a series of deals to expand relations in areas ranging from aviation to education.

The agreements were signed at the third Africa Singapore Business Forum with parties from Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe among others. The two-day forum, which ends today, was attended by about 600 African and Singaporean government officials and business leaders.

Encouraging business between Singapore and the fast-growing continent was high on the agenda.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran signed bilateral investment treaties with Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast that will promote trade.

Mr Iswaran said in a statement: "The treaties will provide our companies operating in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast better protection and greater investment confidence, thus promoting investment flows between our countries."

There are a few Singapore firms already in Burkina Faso, including Olam International and Agritech. Bilateral trade between Singapore and the West African country stood at $2.54 million last year.

Trade with Ivory Coast, also in West Africa, was higher, at $36.1 million. In 2012, Singapore's cumulative direct investments in the country amounted to $220 million, primarily in agriculture.

In another key deal signed at the forum, trade promotion agency IE Singapore and accounting giant Deloitte & Touche will help Singapore companies expand into Africa while promoting Singapore as a trading hub to East African businesses.

Singapore and Zimbabwe also signed an air services agreement to allow carriers from both countries the flexibility to plan their commercial operations and capitalise on market opportunities.

Education was addressed as well with two agreements signed.

Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Nanyang Business School signed an agreement with the Strathmore Business School of Kenya and the Lagos Business School of Nigeria's Pan-Atlantic University.

These will pave the way for partnerships in research, executive and leadership training, and student exchange programmes between NTU and these two African business schools.

The first collaboration takes place next month with Nanyang Business School and Strathmore Business School running a five-day leadership course here for 35 senior managers from Kenya and Tanzania.

Finally, NTU and the Singapore Business Federation have launched a Centre for African Studies, which aims to provide Asian executives, entrepreneurs and policymakers with in-depth insights on African markets.

The centre will operate under the Nanyang Business School.

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