Published on 29 Aug 2023

Centre Director Amit Jain steers a panel discussion at ASBF 2023

Discussion shines light on the manufacturing and consumer goods sector in Africa

Photo courtesy: Enterprise Singapore

The Director of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, Amit Jain, moderated a panel discussion at the Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF) this week, which put the spotlight on the manufacturing and consumer goods sector in Africa. The ASBF, which is organised every two years by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) brings together business leaders, officials of African investment promotion boards, and ministers to boost trade and investments between Singapore and Africa. 

Panellists included Haresh Aswani, Managing Director of Tolaram Group, a family-run business based in Singapore that is invested in food, consumer durable, and infrastructure in Nigeria; Kyle Kelhofer, senior IFC country manager for Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo; Sun Siyuan, Executive Vice President of the Singapore-based mining and shipping giant Winning International Group (WIG); Marcel Golding, a renowned South African left-wing trade union leader-turned private equity investor; and Santi Rasanayagam, Group CEO of Prime Logistics, a Dubai-based firm that moves fuel, cargo and other materials in and out of East and Central Africa.

Photo courtesy: Enterprise Singapore

The discussion ran for over 1.5 hours and covered a wide range of issues and brought home some practical advice for Asian investors looking to do business in Africa. Amit kick-started the conversation by painting a picture of the size, state, and potential of the manufacturing and consumable goods sector across Africa before introducing the panellists to the audience. He ended the discussion reminding audience that Africa accounted for only 3% of the global economy in the 1960. Today its share is still no more than 4%.  By 2040, it will still account for only 4% of the global economy unless manufacturing can kick off in a meaningful way. “If there is value worth capturing…,” he said. “…then it is in manufacturing.” 

The three-day ASBF was attended by more than 500 business and government leaders from 40 countries, including 14 from Africa. Trade between Singapore and Africa stood at US$19.4bn last year and Singapore firms have investments worth US$32.1bn as of 2021.[1]

Photo courtesy: Enterprise Singapore

[1] Enterprise Singapore 

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