Among the key growth areas highlighted are agribusiness and oil and gas, which Singapore firms have yet to fully realise in Africa. The trade agency IE Singapore wants more businesses to look to the continent for opportunities beyond the traditional emerging regional markets.
Asiatic Agricultural Industries has been doing business in Africa since the mid 90s and is the perfect example to inspire other companies to invest in Africa markets. The Singapore maker of crop protection chemicals first tested the waters in Ethiopia, later extending its reach to Ghana, Uganda and Kenya.
One of its products is the Agro Comet, a fungicide used to prevent cocoa pods from succumbing to disease. Every year, Asiatic supplies over 150 tonnes of it to Ghana – which is among the world’s biggest producers of cocoa. Asiatic has since established a physical presence in Kenya and Rwanda.
The small- and medium-sized enterprise saw a turnover of S$40 million in 2013 and it plans to intensify the exposure of its products.
Chan Chek Chee, chairman of Asiatic Agricultural Industries, said: “This African continent is very vast. They got huge populations. We felt that nothing much was being done so we stepped it up. And from that point of time until now, our sales to Africa has since begun from a mere few per cent of our turnover to almost 20 per cent of our turnover right now.”
Singapore’s trade with Africa has grown at an annual rate of 12 per cent since 2009. It hit S$14.1 billion in 2013. This lags behind Indonesia, which has a 30 per cent annual growth rate, and Malaysia, which has 21 per cent. There is clearly room for Singapore to do more despite challenges such as political risks and regulatory uncertainty.
G Jayakrishnan, group director of Middle East and Africa Group at IE Singapore, said: “In today’s Africa, there’s a huge demand for consumption products. There’s greater rates of urbanisation, which means that power, utilities, will all be required on the continent.”
IE Singapore’s African offices have received double the number of enquires about the continent since 2013, signifying growing interest from Singapore firms. The trade agency says there are at least 50 local companies with an African presence.