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Position:SINGAPORE-AFRICA - Interview

International Enterprise (IE) Singapore Is the government agency driving Singapore's external trade, promoting the overseas growth of Singapore-based companies. African Business spoke to G. Jayakrishnan, Group Director for the Middle East and Africa, about Singapore's relationship with Africa. Here are excerpts.

African Business: We talked with the Africa Business Group's Shabbir Hassanbhai and he described the start of the engagement between Singapore and Africa as being very much corporate-driven. There were four or five big companies that went in early and started the relationship.

Yes, I think he was talking probably about the Olams and Wilmars, because they [both multinational conglomerates] had a comparative advantage in African agriculture as they are global players. After the big corporate players you had the SMEs going in, taking advantage of African opportunities.

The Singapore SMEs tend to move quicker than the corporates, they are more nimble and they can deal with the risk of emerging markets, Africa included. They don't have investment committees, it's just the boss, he is the owner. They go on a visit and spend a week or two. They meet potential partners and clients, and within a couple of months they are making investment propositions.

And what is the situation today?

Now you have corporates going in again, a second wave of them, a lot of the larger, sometimes government linked corporates. For example, the massive investments in Tanzania made by Tamasek's energy subsidiary Pavilion Energy--in offshore Tanzanian gas fields with BG [now being taken over by Shell] and Ophir. Tamasek, the country's sovereign wealth fund, has done a couple of deals in the hydrocarbon sector. They bought into Seven Energy, Nigeria, for example.

I would also point to Sembcorp, who have bought assets in South Africa, and Tolaram which has a strong presence in Nigeria, especially Lagos State. Sembcorp is a major utilities, marine and urban development company, while Tolaram is engaged in manufacturing, food, paper, packaging and textiles, as well as energy, logistics and infrastructure businesses.

Indorama is another Singaporean corporate, and it has invested heavily in Senegal--it was around $800m late last year, last quarter. And they are looking at East Africa too. So, again these are the slightly later wave, but these are very large corporates with a very entrepreneurial spirit.

Indorama manufactures a multitude of industrial products including polyethylene, polypropylene, spun yarns, fabrics, medical gloves and fertilisers. It is the second largest producer of polyolefins in Africa and the largest in West Africa. It is also the largest producer of...

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