Ms Linn Neo, Regional Director for East Africa, Enterprise Singapore (pictured above) speaks to the kenyaonlinews.com on the 2023 Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF)
Please note that abbreviation for Enterprise Singapore is Enterprise SG
1. What will participants in Africa expect during the Africa Singapore Business Forum?
2. What else can the business moguls expect from the summit?
The Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) is a biennial platform, organised by Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), for African and Singapore businesses and government representatives to share insights, network and explore areas of collaboration. EnterpriseSG is the enterprise development agency of the Singapore government’s Ministry of Trade and Industry with its East Africa regional office based in Nairobi.
Participants attending ASBF in Singapore can look forward to hearing from over 20 highly experienced speakers from various industries, government bodies, financial institutions and more.
They will address a range of current business topics including manufacturing, technology and sustainability and how growth can be achieved, including latest developments in Africa and Singapore, and how African businesses can leverage Singapore’s competitive advantages as a gateway to Asia. There will also be market-centric panels that will focus on the business opportunities in the various regions in Africa.
Key highlights of the forum include the keynote address by Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Gan Kim Yong, as well as the keynote dialogue with Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, H.E. Wamkele Mene and Singapore Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Alvin Tan.
The dialogue will discuss how businesses can navigate the new market shifts in Africa and Singapore through enhancing joint collaboration.
Besides gaining knowledge and insights into the different markets, the forum brings together like-minded businesses and government bodies to network and exchange ideas. African businesses can look forward to meeting new potential partners from Singapore to explore opportunities not just in Africa or Singapore, but also in Asia. Singapore offers a supportive business environment that can serve as a good base for African businesses looking to set up regional headquarters in Asia.
3. What are some of the milestones achieved over the past business forum from the 1st to the 6th forum?
The ASBF aims to identify collaboration opportunities and provide business leaders with updates on trends in both Africa and Asia. Over the years, the forum has brought together more than 5,000 business and government leaders from 30 countries. This flagship event is part of our on-going efforts to raise awareness, develop insights and build a pipeline of opportunities for African and Singapore businesses. Over and above this flagship forum, we work with partners to regularly conduct webinars, roundtables and business missions.
Our overseas centres in Nairobi, Accra and Johannesburg also identify potential in-market partners and facilitate the necessary discussions. Together, our efforts have led to increased interest among Singapore companies for the region. This can be seen from trade between Singapore and Africa, which has seen steady growth at a CAGR of around 15% from 2019 to 2022. Today, Singapore is among the top ten investors in Africa.
Over the years, we have also seen more Singapore companies entering Africa. Currently there are more than 100 companies in 40 African countries. Some like Tolaram, entered Africa in the 1970s, with a focus on the distribution of fast-moving consumer goods.
The company has since gone on to deepen its presence in Africa, by investing in the Lekki Port Project in Nigeria and opening and manufacturing plant for synthetic hair under the brand name “Lush” in Kenya. Others have entered the region on the back of new developments such as the rise of digitalisation.
One such company is Thunes, which specialises in cross border payments. It has partnered with various mobile wallet operators and banks such as Airtel Money, Equitel Money and M-PESA to enable cross border remittances and payments in Africa.
4. What are some of the key learnings over the summit?
5. Has there been any shortcomings with the summit? Let us know why?
In our meetings with Singapore businesses, we have found that many tend to consider nearer and more familiar markets when deciding on their overseas expansion. Some may find it difficult to enter Africa as there are many different countries at different stages of development.
To help Singapore businesses better understand the market and conditions on the ground, we established ASBF as a platform to share the latest insights into the different African markets and connect Singapore businesses to relevant partners or business leads
in the continent.
We find that the ASBF has played a key role in helping us build awareness of the opportunities in Africa for Singapore companies. At the same time, networks are critical when it comes to business partnerships. The forum serves as a bridge for African and Singapore businesses to make connections. Over the years, through the various editions of ASBF, we have seen active participation and strong interest from the African government and businesses in partnering Singapore companies. Some feedback we have gotten is that the gap of two years between each is too long and many are keen for more regular interactions between Singapore and Africa. To bridge this gap, EnterpriseSG regularly conducts other activities business-focused activities and missions to Africa.
6. Who are the speakers from Kenya who will be attending the summit?
There will be four speakers from Kenya at the ASBF 2023:
James Mwangi, Group Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings will be part of the panel to discuss Africa’s digital tech transformation, the rise of the internet-based economy and the opportunities created as a result.
Sandra Yao, Senior Vice President, Thunes, is based in Kenya and will be part of the panel to discuss Africa’s digital tech transformation, the rise of the internet-based economy and the opportunities created as a result.
Karim S. Anjarwalla, Senior Partner, ALN Kenya. He will be the moderator for the fireside chat with Samalia Zubairu, President and CEO of Africa Finance Corporation. The session will discuss market trends and outlook of Africa. It will
also explore investment opportunities in Africa and how Asian companies can tap on them.
June Chepkemei, Managing Director, Kenya Investment Authority will be part of the panel with regional focus on East Africa. The panel will discuss the latest developments and business opportunities in Kenya and how companies in
Singapore and Asia can be plugged into these.