MINISTERS from 12 African nations Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda visited Singapore as part of the Third Exchange Visit (27th – 28th August 2018) with the theme on ‘Singapore and Africa: Partner for Smart Cities”. They were welcomed by Singapore’s Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the Ministry where he noted, “We have seen Africa develop at an impressive pace, and demonstrate incredible potential. Within the next two decades, Africa will possess the world’s youngest population. By 2030, Africa’s GDP is expected to reach US$3 trillion, buoyed by a rising middle class with strong consumption and of course, a very young, productive population.”
However, there are also challenges confronting the continent. He felt it was apt that the visit centered on the Smart City theme and explained, “This is why we have structured your visit around three of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These three goals are: first, decent work and economic growth; second, industry, innovation, and infrastructure; and third, sustainable cities and communities.”
He expressed Singapore’s belief that no single country, let alone a tiny city-state has a monopoly on the answers to challenges that face Africa but the island state is happy to share its development journey through the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). “In fact, since 1992, over 120,000 officials from 170 countries, including 9,000 from Africa, have attended our SCP courses. We continue to welcome your officials to participate – our doors remain open. Singapore is also working with UN-Habitat to organise the International Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (iLUGP). This programme brings together federal- to municipal-level leaders from various African countries, including experts from UN-Habitat, and experienced practitioners from the Singapore Government for a vibrant exchange of ideas on key urban issues including sustainable environment and dynamic urban governance. In fact, Singapore is hosting the second run of the programme this week and this is an opportunity for me to acknowledge and welcome all the iLUGP participants to Singapore,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
The foreign minister also noted in his welcome speech that since the last Exchange Visit in 2016, economic ties have deepened between Singapore and Africa, “Singapore’s trade with Africa has grown exponentially: it is now US$8 billion in 2017, a 13 percent increase from the year before. But frankly, these trade figures are nowhere near their true potential. To this end, we have put in place several economic frameworks with several of our close African partners, such as Bilateral Investment Treaties and Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements, in order to open up more business opportunities and to encourage more investments both ways. Singapore is also hosting the 5th Africa-Singapore Business Forum tomorrow, which since 2010, has brought together more than 2,000 business and government leaders from over 30 countries to explore opportunities and partnerships between Singapore and Africa.”
During their visit, the Ministers called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and were hosted by DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister Balakrishnan, and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. They also met the Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and SMS (Defence) (Foreign Affairs) Dr Maliki Osman.
ONE Africa at the 5th Africa Singapore Business Forum
The Exchange Visit dovetails with both the 5th Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) and the Singapore UN-Habitat International Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (iLUGP). The ASBF, organised by Enterprise Singapore, is the premier platform for business exchange and fostering trade between Africa and Asia.
ONE Africa Note: Sun Media Pte Ltd, the publisher of IN Diplomacy produced a guide for investors for the ASBF titled ONE Africa featuring the six African embassies resident in Singapore. For a free hard or e-copy request, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org