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29 Aug 2018 Updated 31 Jan 2019

African businesses can make Singapore a base and partner in Southeast Asia and beyond: Chan Chun Sing

The Straits Times Annabeth Leow

SINGAPORE - Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Aug 28) called on African businesses to make Singapore a base and a partner "in South-east Asia and beyond".

Even as some developed economies pull back from the world stage, Africa and South-east Asia can work together more closely and promote economic integration, Mr Chan told an audience of some 600 delegates, in a keynote address at the biennial Africa Singapore Business Forum.

"While the economies of Africa and South-east Asia continue to work towards openness and integration, we also see other countries retreating from globalisation because of their domestic difficulties," said the minister. "We hear of tariffs, trade tensions between major players and protectionism on a regular basis. We are already seeing the real effects of such actions and rhetoric on the commercial decisions of many companies."

"Against this backdrop, it is important that we continue to believe in, and promote and support, economic integration and co-operation, with a strong conviction that open economies, connected economies, inter-dependent economies, ultimately provide better jobs and better income for our people," he said.

The minister said that with the third Singapore-Sub-Saharan Africa High-Level Ministerial Exchange Visit under way this week, under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was "essential for our governments to continue forging partnerships and create conducive environments to support business-to-business interactions".

Increasing physical connectivity through various aviation agreements would also be a practical enabler of greater business linkages, said Mr Chan. Ethiopian Airlines and Air Mauritius are currently the only two African airlines flying to Singapore and "we hope and encourage to see more African carriers do the same in future," he said.

At Tuesday's forum, an avoidance of double taxation agreement was inked between Singapore and Gabon - the 13th such deal with an African country.

Five other pacts were also signed at the event, which was held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel and organised by government agency Enterprise Singapore.

The agency's Singapore Cooperation Enterprise arm and the Mozambique Investment and Export Promotion Agency have agreed to work on exchanging consultancy, advisory and training services for urban master plans and special economic and industrial zones, while the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and Egyptian Businessmen Association will work to match companies in each country with their counterparts.

Construction company Well & Able Holdings secured a contract with Compagnie Sénégalaise de Transport Transatlantique Afrique de l'Ouest to design and build a 9,795 square metre (105,433 square feet) multimodal logistics hub that includes a 7,500 sq m container terminal, while digital solutions company Graymatics struck a deal to partner Crescentech, a Kenyan infocomm technology firm, in areas such as security, banking, telecommunications and retail, with an eye to expanding into South Africa, Nigeria and other countries.

GeTS Asia - a subsidiary of government e-solutions company CrimsonLogic, which is 30 per cent-owned by Enterprise Singapore and 70 per cent-owned by Temasek Holdings' PSA International - will bring its recently launched Open Trade Blockchain platform to Kenya, in a deal with the Kenya Trade Network Agency.

Such agreements should result in more partnerships between Singapore and African companies, said Enterprise Singapore chief executive Png Cheong Boon, who cited "tremendous opportunities in Africa, particularly in the area of consumer products, manufacturing, digital economy and infrastructure development" in his opening remarks at the forum.

Enterprise Singapore said it has successfully facilitated close to 50 projects for Singapore companies in Africa in the last two years, 80 per cent of which were undertaken by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Over 60 Singapore companies are present in Africa, operating across more than 40 African countries and multiple industries.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.