Economic relations between Singapore and Africa continue to expand, as bilateral trade in goods grew by around 15% per annum between 2019 to 2022, reaching $14.5 billion in 2022. Singapore companies’ investments in the African continent cumulatively reached $23.7 billion as at 2021.
As testament to the robust interest to participate in Africa’s growth opportunities, five agreements were inked at the 7th edition of the Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) 2023 organised by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG). These agreements span manufacturing, digitalisation and technology, sustainable development, transport and logistics sectors.
(TOP: Minister Gan Kim Yong, the Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore, speaking at the Africa Singapore Business Forum).
To facilitate further growing ties between Singapore and Africa, the Kenya-Singapore Bilateral Investment Treaty was also ratified by both countries and formally entered into force on 20 August 2023. The Treaty will promote greater investment flows between Singapore and Kenya by protecting the interests of both Singapore and Kenyan investors. The Treaty provides certainty and signals the commitment of both governments to create favourable conditions for business to thrive.
These were disclosed at this year’s Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) taking place from August 29 – 31, 2023, on the theme “Driving Africa’s Growth through Digitalisation, Manufacturing and Sustainability”. The event gathered over 500 business and government leaders from 40 countries in attendance. Highlights for Day 1 included a keynote speech by Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore, as well as a dialogue between Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Community, Culture and Youth of Singapore and Samaila Zubairu, President and CEO of the Africa Finance Corporation, which discussed how businesses and governments can navigate and take advantage of the transformative shifts taking place in Africa through deeper and longer-term collaboration.
Over the remaining days of the forum, participants can expect to glean insights from industry leaders on three of Africa’s fastest-growing segments, i.e., manufacturing, digitalisation and the green economy. Speakers include Dr James Mwangi (Group MD and CEO of Equity Group Holdings), Frederick Teo (CEO, GenZero), Juliana Rotich (Head of Fintech Solutions, Safaricom), Marcel Golding (co-owner, Geomer Managerial Services), Karim S. Anjarwalla (Senior Partner, ALN Kenya), Haresh Aswani (the MD, Tolaram), Tony Sun Siyuan (Executive VP, Winning International Group), Ali Taqi (the MD, Country Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC Bank Egypt), Julie Greene (Chief Sustainability Officer, Olam Global Agri) and Tavraj Banga (Partner and Co-Head, Helios Investment Partners). In addition, there will be 12 country investment panels covering East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa.
Tan Soon Kim, the Deputy CEO (Global Markets), 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. This year, we have organised over 10 activities including business missions, webinars and workshops in sectors such as retail, healthcare, fintech, information and communications technology (ICT) and logistics, benefiting close to 400 companies. 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 offices in Africa.”
Demand for domestically produced goods will grow, as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is set to boost intra-African trade by 52%. Singapore brand owners and manufacturing services companies are keen to partner Africa to address demand in food manufacturing, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and automotives. As an example, Singapore company NivéSal is providing project advisory and execution services to support Ghanaian company SKY 40-40 in setting up manufacturing operations in Takoradi, Ghana to produce sustainable building material products for flooring, furniture boards and construction templates.
The digital economy is turbo charging Africa’s growth and is expected to reach US$712 billion in 2050, accounting for 8.5% of the continent’s GDP – up from 4.5% in 2020. Singapore firms have been providing digital solutions across a wide range of verticals, from agri-tech to logistics tech, retail tech and fintech, to digital trade and smart urban infrastructure. Adatos and Tramés are two such firms which, through EnterpriseSG’s facilitation, have signed an MOU with Singapore global commodity player Robust International to deploy their solutions in Africa. While Adatos’ AI solutions provide Robust farmers with agricultural insights such as weather prediction, yield forecast and nutrients usage to improve crop yield, Tramés’ bespoke logistics management solutions will help Robust optimise its supply chain planning in Africa and globally.
Africa’s green economy has also emerged as an area for partnerships alongside Africa’s urbanisation drive and commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In northern Ghana, for example, Singapore-based food company WhatIF Foods has partnered Pond Foundation, a global non-profit organisation, to trial and scale the production of biochar – a sustainable alternative to traditional fertilisers that will improve soil quality and yield of Bambara groundnuts for more than 30,000 partnering farmers.
Enterprise Singapore is the Singapore government agency championing enterprise development. We also support the growth of Singapore as a hub for global trading and startups. The agency attracts global commodities traders to establish their global or Asian home base in Singapore. Today, Singapore is a leading global trading hub with a complete ecosystem for the energy, agri-commodities and metals & minerals trading clusters. The country is also home to many global enterprises, startups and investors that operate in Singapore’s robust pro-enterprise environment.
With a global network in over 35 locations spanning many developed and emerging markets, Enterprise Singapore connects businesses with relevant Singapore companies for their business expansion.
To facilitate partnerships between African and Singapore businesses, EnterpriseSG has three Overseas Centres in Africa – Johannesburg in South Africa; Accra in Ghana; and Nairobi in Kenya. Through engagement with both government authorities and private sector players in Africa, EnterpriseSG aims to generate a pipeline of trade and investment opportunities by building business networks and connecting African companies with relevant Singapore partners.