Economic relations between Singapore and Africa are experiencing significant growth, with bilateral trade in goods increasing by approximately 15% annually between 2019 and 2022, reaching a total of US$14.5 billion in 2022.
Furthermore, Singapore companies have cumulatively invested US$23.7 billion in the African continent as of 2021.
This expansion of economic ties is evident in the five agreements signed at the 7th edition of the Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) 2023, organized by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG). These agreements cover various sectors, including manufacturing, digitalization and technology, sustainable development, and transport and logistics.
To further strengthen the relationship between Singapore and Africa, the Kenya-Singapore Bilateral Investment Treaty has been ratified by both countries and officially came into effect on August 20, 2023.
This treaty aims to promote increased investment flows between Singapore and Kenya by safeguarding the interests of investors from both nations. It also signals the commitment of both governments to creating favorable conditions for business growth.
These developments were announced at this year’s Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF), which is centered around the theme “Driving Africa’s Growth through Digitalization, Manufacturing, and Sustainability.” The event has attracted over 500 business and government leaders from 40 countries.
Notable highlights from the first day included a keynote speech by Mr. Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore, and 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. The discussion focused on how businesses and governments can navigate and take advantage of the transformative shifts occurring in Africa through deeper and long-term collaboration.
Throughout the forum, participants can expect insights from industry leaders on three of Africa’s fastest-growing segments: manufacturing, digitalization, and the green economy.
Prominent 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). Additionally, 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) of EnterpriseSG, emphasized that Singapore companies are recognizing the value of diversifying their businesses to markets in Africa.
In response to this, EnterpriseSG has organized over 10 activities, including business missions, webinars, and workshops in sectors such as retail, healthcare, fintech, information and communications technology (ICT), and logistics.
These initiatives have benefited nearly 400 companies, and the number of projects facilitated by EnterpriseSG in 2023 has surpassed that of 2022. The organization has provided support to companies, helping them secure new projects and establish offices in Africa.
The demand for domestically produced goods is expected to grow due to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is projected to increase intra-African trade by 52%.
Singapore brand owners and manufacturing services companies are eager to partner with Africa to address the demand in sectors such as food manufacturing, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, and automotive.
For instance, Singapore company NivéSal is assisting Ghanaian company SKY 40-40 in setting up manufacturing operations in Takoradi, Ghana, to produce sustainable building materials for flooring, furniture boards, and construction templates.
The digital economy is playing a significant role in driving 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.