The Africa South East Asia Chamber of Commerce (ASEACC) was officially launched on Monday by a group of 13 companies from both regions to increase economic cooperation.
The chamber is the first of its kind to develop high-level business relationships between companies from both regions.
Historically, Africa has shared closer ties with Europe, but recently, African countries are increasingly looking towards Southeast Asia. And there is also more awareness of the growth potential in African economies.
Teo Siong Seng, co-chairman of ASEACC and managing director of Pacific International Lines, said: “Besides traditional Southeast Asia, China and India markets, Africa provides a totally different perspective, a lot of opportunities, which of course come with a lot of challenges.
“So we would like to encourage Singapore companies, whether they are in education, infrastructure, architecture, city planning, to go and have a look at Africa, and look for suitable partners and suitable opportunities.”
13 companies from various industries like financial services, commodities and oil and gas from both regions formed the chamber to exchange and share business ideas and opportunities.
Companies from Singapore include shipping company Pacific International Lines, water treatment company Hyflux and commodity firms Olam and Wilmar.
Meanwhile, the businesses from Africa include banking and insurance group NSIA from Ivory Coast, banking firms Ecobank Transnational Inc from Togo and Africa Export Import Bank from Egypt, and oil and gas company Petro Gabon from Gabon.
Singapore water treatment firm Hyflux, has invested some S$90 million in Algeria over the past five years.
Sam Ong, group deputy chief executive officer at Hyflux, said: “Based on our experience there, it is the change of regulations — the ever changing labour law, for example — and the restrictions of movement of goods and services sometimes that could be a challenge to private companies like Hyflux.
“But (we have) local partners and experience building the world’s largest desalination plant. We believe the expertise and the local context to navigate through…would be the challenging path.”
But agri-commodity company, Wilmar, which has invested some US$400 million in more than 10 African countries over 10 years, looks forward to having the chamber facilitate the sharing of expertise amongst member firms.
Pratheepan Karunagaran, general manager (Africa) at Wilmar Trading, said: “The knowledge transfer is something that we look forward to, for the chamber (ASEACC) to help us.
“The chamber will be a good platform for us for knowledge transfer as well as training opportunities between various companies, both in Southeast Asia as well as in Africa.”
Bilateral trade between Singapore and Africa has grown significantly since 2006, reaching S$11.8 billion in 2012.
Source : Channel News Asia | November 18, 2013