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Singapore Could Serve as a Node in Africa-Asia Trade: Gan Kim Yong

African investments into South-east Asia “pale in comparison” to the opportunities available, and the continent’s trade with the region also has room to grow, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong.

He made the comments during his keynote address on Tuesday (Aug 29) at the seventh edition of the biennial Africa Singapore Business Forum.

In his speech, Gan pointed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visits to Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya in the past 12 months as examples of the Republic’s aim to strengthen bilateral ties and business linkages with countries in Africa.

“We should, therefore, strive for closer ties between South-east Asia and Africa, a process that Singapore could help catalyse as a node in Africa-Asia trade,” he added.

Gan cited trade figures between Africa and South-east Asia, which in 2021 stood at US$57.6 billion, or “a mere” 2.2 per cent of the latter’s global trade numbers.

Meanwhile, African countries’ collective investments into Asean nations amounted to US$188 million in 2021, or 0.1 per cent of the total US$174 billion of inward investments.

On Tuesday, five business deals were inked between local and African companies at the forum. The agreements span the manufacturing, digitalisation and technology, sustainable development, and transport and logistics sectors.

The three-day forum, which was launched in 2010 by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), helps to connect business and government leaders from Africa and South-east Asia for potential partnerships. The event takes place on Aug 29 to 31, with some 500 people from 40 countries expected to attend.

About 5,000 business and government leaders from 40 countries have met to explore partnerships and growth opportunities between Africa, Singapore and South-east Asia since the inaugural event in 2010.

Tan Soon Kim, deputy chief executive officer of global markets at EnterpriseSG, said: “Singapore companies are recognising the value of diversifying their businesses to markets further afield, and have been responding to our call to explore Africa.”

“In 2023, the number of projects facilitated by EnterpriseSG to date exceeds that of 2022. These are projects where we provided support, including helping companies clinch new projects and set up overseas offices,” he added.

Bilateral trade in goods between Singapore and Africa grew by 15 per cent per annum between 2019 and 2022, reaching S$19.4 billion in 2022, based on data from EnterpriseSG.

Singapore’s business presence in the continent stood at about 100 Singaporean companies across 40 countries in Africa.

“Singapore is also striving to improve connectivity between our regions, including through government-to-government cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, so that we can develop better mutual understanding and encourage more trade and investment,” Gan said.

One example was the bilateral investment treaty between Singapore and Kenya, which was ratified by both countries and entered into force on Aug 20.

EnterpriseSG will also expand the pool of participating financial institutions in its Enterprise Financing Scheme to include those that are willing to finance Singapore enterprises in venturing into Africa and other emerging markets, Gan said.

Tuesday’s business deals included agreements from four Singapore companies – Adatos, Nivesal, Robust International and Trames – for work on projects in Africa.

Source: Business Times