Singapore shares many of the historical experiences of African nations, having been colonised before gaining its independence from British rule. K. Shanmugam (below) talked to African Business magazine about relations between Singapore and the continent.
How have the bilateral co-operation and economic relations between Singapore and Africa grown over the years?
Singapore, like many African and Asian countries, gained independence from colonial rule in the 1960s. A strong sense of South-South solidarity and a keen instinct for survival has brought us together.
As a small city-state, Singapore developed quickly from third to first world. Over time, we found it valuable to share our development experience with friends and created the Singapore Co-operation Programme (SCP). To date, almost 8,000 participants from Africa have visited Singapore through the SCP to take part in programmes such as Public Administration, Information Communications Technology (ICT), Urban Planning, Good Governance, and Water and Sanitation Management.
Apart from the sharing of our experience, Singapore's relations with Africa over the past five decades have been founded on mutual economic interests. Africa's decade of growth has brought about many opportunities for trade and investment. Over the past decade, our total bilateral trade grew by 13% annually to reach $9.8bn in 2014. This is remarkable progress in terms of the rate of growth. Singapore's investments in Africa have been healthy, with cumulative investments rising by 70% to $t7.4bn in 2013, from $10.2bn in 2008.
Last year, we hosted the inaugural sub-Saharan Africa High Level Ministerial Exchange Visit, which saw ministers from seven African countries (Angola, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe) coming to Singapore to discuss cooperation in areas such as water management, vocational training, urban planning and e-governance.
This meeting underscored the significant opportunities for Singapore companies to partner with Africa.
One area where we can work harder is air connectivity between Singapore and Africa. As a gateway to Asia, Singapore offers tremendous trade, investment and tourism opportunities for Africa. However, connectivity has to be enhanced, and it is in the larger interest of Singapore and African countries to be more closely connected.
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