Singapore firms encouraged to invest in Africa amid tech growth

SINGAPORE: Companies here have long been encouraged to expand into Asia’s fast-growing market, but they are now being urged to take advantage of the immense opportunities opening up in Africa.

The region has received far less attention from global firms, but the potential is vast in areas like healthcare and technology.

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said it facilitated 20% more projects for Singapore firms going into Africa last year than in 2019.

“We are on track to exceed that in 2021,” said G. Jayakrishnan, ESG global markets executive director covering the Middle East and Africa, Central Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe.

He noted Africa’s average annual gross domestic product growth consistently outpaced the global average in the pre-pandemic era and was expected to be at least 6% until 2023.

Africa is also home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. More than 100 Singapore firms operate in Africa now, with the top four sectors of interest being consumer goods, or manufactured food products, oil and gas, digital solutions and urban solutions.

Jayakrishnan added: “There have been other factors at play that have sparked excitement and interest among small and medium enterprises about doing business in Africa.

“The digital revolution that was well under way in Africa sped up considerably during the pandemic.”

The growth of digital technology over the past 15 years, mainly driven by the mobile revolution and associated innovations, has been one of the bright spots for Africa’s development, he said.

More than 80% of Africa’s population has a mobile phone subscription and the digital economy is becoming a key driver of growth.

Farmers with small holdings can make payments on their phones and deal directly with wholesalers, getting information on pricing and other factors like weather conditions.

Digital trade has also led to fintech services becoming a powerful lever for growth and financial inclusion, Jayakrishnan said.

He noted that Singapore companies have recognised this opportunity and are developing partnerships in healthtech, fintech and even education technology in various African markets.

Other opportunities lie in manufacturing, with domestic food production and packaging having to grow to meet population needs. — The Straits Times/ANN

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