12 June 18 The Business Times by JANICE HENG
THE Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) have set off on a business mission to East Africa till June 16, in conjunction with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's official visit to Kenya and Rwanda.
This is the SBF's Africa Business Group's fourth business mission to Kenya and its third visit to Rwanda. The delegation will visit both countries' capitals, meeting high-level government officials as well as the region's largest conglomerates.
Highlights include the launch of ESG's Nairobi Overseas Centre on June 13 - which will help Singapore firms venture into Kenya and East Africa - as well as meetings with local companies, government ministries, and project financiers.
Delegates will also meet members of the Kenya Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a trade lobby for the local Chinese business community.
The 35-member business and government delegation comprises representatives from 20 companies and organisations, in sectors such as info-communications technology; real estate and hospitality; construction and infrastructure-related services; shipping and logistics; agriculture and agribusiness; education; fintech solutions; manufacturing; fast moving consumer goods; and general trade sectors.
The East Africa region's GDP growth of 5.9 per cent in 2017 was the best on the continent and above the average of 3.6 per cent, led by Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
SBF chairman SS Teo, who is leading the Kenya segment of the mission, said: "There is often the misperception of Africa being a big boy's market, when in reality it is more SME-friendly."
Mr Teo, who is executive chairman and managing director of Pacific International Lines, added: "It is a huge market that offers an array of opportunities across various sectors and in varying sizes, which makes it ideal for SME entrants, given their more nimble structures."
Leading the Rwanda segment is Eugene Wong, chairman of digital consultancy CrimsonLogic, who said: "The Singapore brand of good quality, reliability and integrity is much welcomed in Africa." CrimsonLogic has been in Africa since 1994, with business having "taken off" over the past five years and its Rwanda office opening this month, he added.
Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, is visiting both countries as part of Singapore's increased engagement with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He is accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, as well as officials from MTI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and ESG.
From June 12-13, Mr Tharman will visit Nairobi, calling on Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, opening ESG's Nairobi Overseas Centre, and meeting government and business leaders.
And from June 13-14, Mr Tharman will visit the Rwandan capital of Kigali, calling on President Paul Kagame and Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, and meeting other government leaders.