Those ties established nearly 5 decades ago, have happily been on the ascendant in recent years. Under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, the Singapore Government has trained close to 7,000 African officials from 46 African countries, since 1992. Today, 5 African countries (Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa) have established embassies in Singapore while 27 others have ambassadors accredited to Singapore.
Africa-Singapore Business Forum
The expanding network of relationships between Singapore and the countries of the African continent has created valuable opportunities for companies on both sides. Since 2007, Singapore's trade with African countries has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 11.8%. In 2011, bilateral trade reached a record high of USD$10.9 billion (S$13.8 billion). This strong and sustained growth is emblematic of the larger story of increasing trade and investment flows between African and Asian countries.
Given Singapore's role as an international business hub, it is not surprising that several Singapore companies have been doing business with, and in, African countries - well before this more recent surge in bilateral economic activity. For example, the Tolaram Group started trading and eventually diversified into Nigeria's manufacturing industry in 1977. Singapore-based Comcraft Asia has been involved in Kenya's steel and manufacturing industry for almost a century. In the last decade, Olam and Wilmar, Singapore's prominent agri-commodities companies, have established themselves in South, East and West African countries.
In recent years, these pioneers have been joined by a growing number of other Singapore companies that have discovered that African economies offer interesting and compelling opportunities. In the last 2 years alone, Singapore companies have embarked on 15 business missions to 17 countries in Africa. Today, some 48 Singapore companies have business interests in 42 African countries.
Some of them are leveraging on the expertise they have gained from Singapore's own development to contribute to the rising economies of their African host countries. I am pleased that our companies have been able to be a part of, and play a meaningful role in, the African growth story.
Siingapore companies are involved in a wide array of activities in Africa. It ranges from master-planning industrial zones in Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo; desalination plants and water management projects in South Africa and Algeria; port and logistics in Gabon, Rwanda, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo; educational services in Botswana and Nigeria; E-government platform projects in Ghana, Madagascar, Namibia, and Mozambique; and agri-business in over 25 African countries.
Political Relations and People Ties
There are, therefore, good reasons to be sanguine about the prospects for the growing economic ties between Singapore and Africa. This economic optimism is complemented by the deepening political and people-to-people ties between African countries and Singapore. In fact, Singapore's political links with Africa pre-dates even our independence.
In 1964, Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited 17 African countries to establish or renew political relations. And so it was that, when we gained our independence in 1965 and applied to join the United Nations (UN), Cote d'Ivoire co-sponsored the UN resolution that welcomed us into the family of nations.
Those ties established nearly 5 decades ago, have happily been on the ascendant in recent years. Under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, the Singapore Government has trained close to 7,000 African officials from 46 African countries, since 1992. Today, 5 African countries (Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa) have established embassies in Singapore while 27 others have ambassadors accredited to Singapore. Singapore has also welcomed many high-level African visitors, including state visits by Heads of Governments.
Singaporeans have also made new friends through cultural, educational and social exchanges. At the school level, the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore in 2010 inspired our children to take a keen interest in Africa, as all the participating African countries were paired with Singapore schools. Singapore universities and companies are devoting more resources to create opportunities for Singaporeans to experience Africa through scholarships, exchange programmes and internships. At the individual level, some of our more enterprising tertiary students are volunteering to share their skills and knowledge with people in the rural areas of Kenya and Zambia. You probably met some of these young people yesterday at ASBF Connex.
Singapore Government's Support
The Singapore Government welcomes the growing interest of Singaporeans and Singapore companies in Africa, and vice versa. The partnerships forged between Singapore companies and their African counterparts will benefit from greater bilateral linkages whether in the form of economic agreements or physical connectivity.
Announcement of IE's new office in Ghana
Our companies have told us that they would welcome a greater presence of Singapore government agencies in Africa to provide them with greater in-market support. I am therefore pleased to announce that International Enterprise (IE) Singapore will open its second African overseas centre in Ghana later this year. IE's offices will help our businesses gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the opportunities, regulatory environment and business practices in the diverse African economies.
This Africa Singapore Business Forum is yet another avenue to further our common economic purpose. I urge Singapore companies to take full advantage of this forum to network and seek out potential business partners. Equally, I would urge our African friends to discover, as have the 80 African companies who are already here, how Singapore can be your ideal partner, for development plans in your home markets, as well as to seize business opportunities in a rising Asia.
12. I am confident that the timely expansion of IE Singapore's network of overseas centres in Africa, together with its MOU with the International Finance Corporation, will further strengthen the economic momentum between Singapore and African countries. I wish all of you a fruitful day ahead.
* SPEECH BY MR S ISWARAN, MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE & SECOND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS & SECOND MINISTER FOR TRADE & INDUSTRY, AT THE SECOND AFRICA SINGAPORE BUSINESS FORUM , 30 AUGUST 2012, AT GRAND CORPTHORNE WATERFRONT HOTEL