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NTU and SBF launch Centre for African Studies

  • MOUs signed with two top African business schools - Lagos Business School and Strathmore Business School
  • Five organisations giving $1 million each to start the Centre
  • New internship programme in Africa for NTU undergraduates

27 August 2014 [Singapore] – Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Business Federation (SBF) have jointly established a new centre to provide Asian executives, entrepreneurs and policymakers with in-depth insights on African markets.

The new NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, the first of its kind in South-east Asia, will provide Asian companies eyeing Africa’s rich opportunities with a distinct business advantage.

The Centre was launched this morning at the 2014 Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; SBF Chairman S.S. Teo; Nanyang Business School Dean Ravi Kumar; Ambassador Shabbir Hassanbhai, Singapore's non-resident High Commissioner to Nigeria; and representatives from the Centre’s five founding donor companies.

As part of its inauguration, the Centre, which is a research centre under NTU’s Nanyang Business School, also launched its flagship online portal, African Business Insights. The portal publishes the Centre’s research findings as well as perspectives from contributing partners.

NTU’s Nanyang Business School Dean Ravi Kumar said: “Africa is no longer a region that businesses can afford to ignore if they want to thrive in the next 50 years. With a youthful and ambitious population of one billion people, the continent will be the next leader of global economic growth as social and political transformation takes root.”

“The NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies will play a crucial role in helping companies here and in the region gain deep and intimate knowledge of Africa’s vast and varied markets, while nurturing Africa-savvy talent that will enable them to establish and expand on the continent.”

Ambassador Shabbir Hassanbhai, Chairman of the Centre’s Advisory Board said: “The Centre was first conceptualised at the end of the last ASBF, held in 2012. It was not an easy endeavour but after assiduously perusing with the stakeholders’ and founder donors, I am pleased that this has finally come to fruition. At the heart of this private-sector driven initiative lies a firm belief in the opportunities on the Africa continent, and a business think-tank dedicated for this purpose will bring together business thought leaders from Africa and Asia to foster greater engagement and mutual understanding and create opportunities for transactional opportunities.”

“I also believe the Centre is in a unique position to spearhead specialised business programmes and educational opportunities for research and learning that hitherto was not available in Singapore of a unique Asian perspective of understanding Africa”.  

NTU collaborates with two top African business schools

Memorandums of Understanding with Lagos Business School, Nigeria, and Strathmore Business School, Kenya, were also signed at the Centre’s launch. The agreements pave the way for partnerships in research, executive and leadership training, and student exchange programmes between the Centre and these two top African business schools.

The first collaboration takes place next month with Nanyang Business School and Strathmore Business School running a five-day leadership course here for 35 senior managers from Kenya and Tanzania.

An internship programme has also been established through the generosity of Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Chairman and Chief Executive of agri-business group Wilmar International. The programme sponsors three Nanyang Business School undergraduates a year for 10-week professional attachments at Wilmar’s operations in Africa.

Strong industry support

The NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies is a unique trilateral platform with government, business and academia. Donations from five of Singapore’s leading investors in Africa were key to the Centre’s establishment. The founding donors, each committing $1 million to the Centre, are: Indorama Group, Olam International, Pacific International Lines, Tolaram Group and Wilmar International.

Other programmes and activities that the Centre will conduct include workshops and seminars for Asian executives on various aspects of business in Africa, immersion trips between Asia and Africa, and producing proprietary business case studies on Africa. These will advance the Centre towards its key goals of providing thought leadership on business in Africa, building human capital for engagement and expansion in Africa by Asian firms, and fostering an integrated Africa-Asia network.

Mr S.S. Teo, SBF Chairman and Managing Director of Pacific International Lines said: “PIL has played an active role in the growing African economy since 1967. With the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies as a conduit, we look forward to share our experience with the research groups on the social, economic, political and cultural issues that impact doing business in Africa. Through the Centre, we hope that the academia and the business communities can network and collaborate in developing strategies that will contribute to realising the business opportunities in Africa.”

Mr Amit Lohia, Group Managing Director of Indorama Group said: “Indorama hopes that the Centre for African Studies acts as an important bridge for “South-South” partnership and provides deep insights into Africa, reflecting upon its vast opportunities and bringing it closer into mainstream of global trade and social cohesion.”

Mr Venkatramani Srivathsan, Managing Director, Africa and Middle East, Olam International said: "The establishment of South East Asia’s first Centre for African Studies could not be more prescient given the strengthening ties and expanding business opportunities Singapore-based companies share with African nations. This year marks 25 years in Africa for Olam and the Centre provides a tremendous platform for all involved to share collective experience and learn from each other.”

Mr Sajen G. Aswani, Chief Executive of Tolaram Group said: “Having been involved in Africa for the last 35 years, Tolaram Group is witness to the fact that Africa has moved progressively forward. We think that a think-tank dedicated to African issues will definitely make a positive impact. We look forward to continuously making meaningful contributions to the economic, political and social development of Africa where many of us cut our teeth in the business world.”

Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Chairman & CEO of Wilmar International Limited said: “Africa, with its rapid economic growth, offers exciting business potential but is considered by many a challenging market. The Centre is well-placed to be the platform for the business community to exchange insights and experiences on Africa to tap the long-term opportunities. By advancing thought leadership and fostering an integrated Africa-Singapore network, it will pave the way for more Singapore companies to gain a foothold in the fast emerging economy. Since entering Africa about 14 years ago, Wilmar has a footprint in 12 countries across the continent today. Through our internship programme, we hope that the younger generation will discover the great opportunities in Africa which is actually not as unsafe as commonly perceived to be, and be encouraged to venture and build a great career there.”

List of Advisory Board members

Launch of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies at the Africa-Singapore Business Forum

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