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  • Singapore SMEs Join Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in West Africa to Grow Businesses in New Markets

Singapore SMEs Join Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in West Africa to Grow Businesses in New Markets

  • Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Business Federation led a business mission to the Ivory Coast and Ghana to capture new opportunities in growth region
  • The Singapore Cooperation Enterprise concluded and signed MoUs with the Investment Advisory Committee of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Stock Exchange
  • Two MoUs to support trade development and capability building exchanged on the sidelines of the Ghana-Singapore Business Forum
MR No.: 072/19

Singapore, Friday, 8 November 2019
  Senior Minister (SM) and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam chaired a business dialogue with close to 200 Singapore and African business leaders in Accra, Ghana, where he discussed how the unique capabilities of Singapore companies would be a value-add to the region’s developments. He noted that while Ghana serves as a gateway for international companies to enter the West Africa region, West African companies could look to Singapore as a gateway to growing Asia markets.

Organised by Enterprise Singapore, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the dialogue was part of the Ghana-Singapore Business Forum and culminates a week-long business mission to the Ivory Coast and Ghana. SM Tharman was accompanied by Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Industry Dr Tan Wu Meng, and 17 Singapore small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The SMEs are interested in expanding into Ghana as either a new entry into Africa or a new market to augment their existing presence in the continent. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area1 (AfCFTA) has widened the scope of collaboration between Singapore and African companies.

The Singapore business delegation attended more than 50 business-to-business (B2B) meetings and site visits, to understand the operating environment and business opportunities in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Refer to Annex A for delegation profile.

SM Tharman witnessed the exchange of two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) facilitated by Enterprise Singapore, on the sidelines of the Ghana-Singapore Business Forum. These MoUs are for the:
  • Supply of vessel spares and offshore equipment and the service of vessel engines between Sea Solutions Services and Brandel Marine.
  • Establishment of a joint venture to provide security consultancy and training in Ghana between SecuriState and Merchants Company of West Africa (MECOWA).
Two MoUs were also concluded and signed during the business mission. These MoUs are for the:
  • Capacity building and sharing of best practices between the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and the Investment Advisory Committee (IAC) of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance for the newly formed secretariat of the IAC.
  • Capacity building and expansion of service offerings within the stock exchange between the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and the Ghana Stock Exchange.
Over the past two years, Enterprise Singapore has successfully facilitated 26 projects in West Africa, of which more than 60% are undertaken by SMEs. In Ghana, there are more than 30 Singapore companies operating across sectors such as fintech, urban development, agribusiness,
oil and gas, and fast-moving consumer goods, reflecting key growth sectors in the wider West African region.

Joining the Forum, Ms Kathy Lai, Deputy Chief Executive of Enterprise Singapore, said, “Singapore companies specialising in infrastructure, education and skills upgrading are wellpositioned to support the development needs of the region. In addition, West Africa is experiencing strong growth in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), logistics and digital sectors. This presents good opportunities for Singapore companies with expertise in these sectors to forge long-term partnerships with in-market partners. Enterprise Singapore has led five business delegations to five countries in Africa in 2019 alone, for more than 50 Singapore companies. We will continue to assist our companies in expanding into this growing market.”

Mr Ho Meng Kit, SBF Chief Executive Officer, said, “With growth fueled by technology, rapid urbanisation and infrastructure demand, West Africa has many business opportunities for Singapore companies. With the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the continent presents huge potential in long-term trade and economic development.”

Singapore Companies in West Africa

Olam International Limited participated in the trip while Wilmar International Limited hosted the delegation at their factory. They are the two largest Singapore agri-business companies that have invested in the agri-business and food sector in Africa.

Leading the mission, Mr Venkataramani Srivathsan, Vice Chairman, SBF’s AfBG and Managing Director and CEO, Africa and Middle East, Olam International Limited, said, “Africa is often being viewed as a challenging market meant only for the bigger corporations. But it actually offers a wide array of opportunities for SME entrants to explore and capture, given their nimble structures. The key to success will be to engage with trustworthy local partners which is essential for relationship-building and navigating local regulations and requirements. Africa is opportunity rich, and we continuously see investable projects and opportunities available despite our established presence.”

Mr Lawrence Chan, Managing Director, Asiatic Agricultural Industries which manufactures and distributes crop protection products, said, “Asiatic has been commercially engaged in the African continent since the mid-1990s. The high quality products and services that are synonymous with the Singapore brand and our company's unique development expertise will create many more business opportunities. Through this mission, we want to deepen our engagement with the local enterprises and explore more partnerships.”

Mr Jason Tung, Business Development Manager, SEA Solutions Services Pte Ltd, a local oil and gas technical solution provider, said, “Africa’s growing population, rising consumer class and rapid urbanisation are factors that have prompted us to be part of Africa’s growth
agenda. With the setting up of our office in Ghana, we are looking to grow our business footprint in the continent alongside the plethora of opportunities it offers - starting with the diversification into the agri-business.”

Economic and Trade information for West Africa 

In 2018, the estimated real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for West Africa was 3.3%, up from 2.7% in 2017, and is projected to reach 3.6% in 2019 and 2020. The forecasted GDP growth is led by Ghana at 6.5%2.

Other key markets in the region include Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal. The region’s growth is driven primarily by agriculture, which accounts for approximately 35% of the region’s GDP, and also driven by renewed dynamism in public and private investment in the manufacturing,
energy and mining sectors3.

At a broader level, trade between Asia and Africa is growing4, largely due to China’s demand for oil, iron and base metals as well as agri-commodities5. Africa’s main imports from Asia include machinery and consumer goods, presenting opportunities for Singapore companies in these sectors to tap on Africa’s growing demand. ASEAN, potentially being the 4th largest economy in the world by 2050, presents a sizeable and growing market for African companies.

1 The AfCFTA is single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people, goods, services, and investments. It came into effect on 30 May 2019 after ratification by 22 countries.
2 Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Ghana, February 2019.
3 African Development Bank Group, West Africa Economic Outlook 2019, April 2019.
4 Between 2006 and 2016, trade between Africa and Asia grew from US$167 billion to US$292.9 billion. Africa Business Insight, How we made it in Africa, August 2017.
5 The World Bank, Global Trade Watch: Trade Developments in 2015, March 2016.

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