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 US$14.5 billion in 2022. Singapore companies’ investments in the African continent cumulatively reached US$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.
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 29 – 31 August, on the theme “Driving Africa’s Growth through Digitalisation, Manufacturing and Sustainability”. The event is expected to gather over 500 business and government leaders from 40 countries in attendance. Highlights for Day 1 included a keynote speech by Guest of Honour Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore, as well as a dialogue between Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Community, Culture and Youth of Singapore and Mr Samaila Zubairu, President & 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 Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings), Mr Frederick Teo (CEO, GenZero), Ms. Juliana Rotich (Head of Fintech Solutions, Safaricom), Mr Marcel Golding (Co-Owner, Geomer Managerial Services), Mr Karim S. Anjarwalla (Senior Partner, ALN Kenya), Mr Haresh Aswani (Managing Director, Tolaram), Mr Tony Sun Siyuan (Executive Vice-President, Winning International Group), Mr Ali Taqi (Managing Director, Country Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC Bank Egypt), Ms Julie Greene (Chief Sustainability Officer, Olam Global Agri) and Mr 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.
Mr Tan Soon Kim, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (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.