Africa emerging world business frontier-Singaporean Consul


-Nigeria among top favourites


“Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island country off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, in the Southeast Asian region of the Asian continent. It is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north, and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south. Singapore is the world’s fourth leading financial centre and a cosmopolitan world city, playing a key role in international trade and finance. The port of Singapore is amongst the top five busiest ports in the world.

Singapore is an immigrant country with a long history of immigration. It has a diverse population of close to 5 million people made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Asians of various descents and Caucasians. 42% of the populations in Singapore are foreigners and foreigners make up 50% of the service sector in Singapore.[


Even before independence in 1965, Singapore was one of the richest states in East Asia due to its strategic location as a port. Its GDP per capita in 1965 was $511, the third highest in East Asia after Japan and Hong Kong. After independence, foreign direct investment and a state-led drive for industrialization based on plans by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Goh Keng Swee created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning.

Singapore has the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita and twentieth highest GDP (nominal) per capita in the world. The country also possesses the world’s ninth largest foreign reserves.[20][21] The Economist Intelligence Unit in its “Quality-Of-Life Index” ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and eleventh overall in the world.



(Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Lagos–PETER OBIORA of investadvocate, Saturday September 18 2010 at a parley with Business Editors; captured a Question and Answer Session with his Excellency, Chief Haresh Aswani, Honourary Consul of the Republic of Singapore in Nigeria on issues relating to the promotion of businesses and investments between Nigeria and Singapore, the forthcoming launching of the African Singapore Business Group and the Nigeria-Singapore Business and Investment Forum scheduled for October 25 to 27 2010 in Singapore amongst other things. Excerpts:



How many Nigerian States are in partnership with Singapore


There are a couple of them, first in Lagos State, some of the things we are doing in partnership include, the Master Planning for the State, bringing companies from Singapore that would try and help resuscitate water transportation in the  State; targeting at various locations. We are looking at developing between Ikorodu and Apapa/Tin Can Port areas of the State.



In Delta State, we have Singaporean Companies that have done the Master Plan for their Industrial Zone. Also in Jigawa State, a Singaporean company has gone to set up an Information Technology (IT) School and I believe now Jigawa State generates one of the largest number of IT qualified students in Nigeria.  These are some of the instances of companies from Singapore that are partnering with States Government in Nigeria.



What can Nigeria take from Singapore in terms of comparative advantage?


First and foremost, you have to learn by experience, what you have done right or wrong. Singapore is a country with no resources; except for its Human Capital. How did we transform to have the largest Port in the world? The most beautiful Airport in the world, largest refining capacity in the world, therefore, the best place to come and learn is Singapore, but for us to remain relevant and on top, we have to be very competitive; if you are not, somebody else will do it and stay on top.


Everyone talks about China being the most competitive global economy, but are they? They don’t have the largest Airport in the world or largest refining capacity; we have.





Singapore has developed competitive advantage in so many areas and you find some of these sectors in the area of education, energy, Medicine, Tourism, Aerospace Engineering and so on. The World Bank has rated them the best place to do business in the world. There are more than 700 multinational companies as at this period in Singapore. This is a place that is just one fifth (1/5) of Lagos State.



Current level of investment in Nigeria



We have about $500 million investment of Singaporean companies in Nigeria at the moment and how much more will come, depends on how attractive Nigeria makes it for them.




As at the time of filling in this Question and Answer Session, investadvocate was yet to do a research to confirm this figure.



On the Singapore-Africa Business Group



This is a platform to promote what is available in Nigeria for instance. A lot of people in other parts of the world, do not know what is going on here, the only thing they get is the information the media gives to them. And the perception of Nigeria in the media is not the best, and we have to change that; and tell people to come and do business in Nigeria because it is safe. Therefore, we are using this medium to seek that they come to Nigeria and invest. People can own their investment and make profits in Nigeria.




“His Excellency, Chief Haresh Aswani, has lived in Nigeria for 25 years and he is regarded as the biggest Champion in Asian Forum. Insisting that Asians should come to Nigeria and invest. Also, the Business Forum that would be taking place in Singapore in October is a joint initiative between the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the Consulate General of the Republic of Singapore in Nigeria, the International Enterprise Singapore (IES); one of Singaporean Investment Promotion Agencies; promoting outbound investments; investments from Singapore to the rest of the world; while the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) promotes investments from other parts of the world into Singapore.


It is worthy to note that the NIPC will use this medium to strengthen its ties with their counterparts in Singapore in terms of technical cooperation and so on. This is a strategic initiative and platform by NIPC as part of their investment promotion activities.


In the forum, a roundtable would be put in place for Chambers of Commerce; from a capacity building point of view. However, 100s of Singaporean and scores of Nigerian companies are expected to attend”.



Recorded volume of trade between Nigeria and Singapore


It is less than $1.0 billion now about $800 million a year and this figure is too small. It is a matter of discovery, people need to know the potentials, Nigerian Companies and Governments need to know what they can gain from Singapore; as much as the Singaporeans need to have more information about them.



This is the reason initiatives such as the Nigerian-Singapore Business Forum that we are about to organise are useful, they are valuable platforms where information are exchanged and beneficial networking achieved. It is telling people our experience; that they can come to Nigeria and create a first class company and be profitable and grow; especially the “Indomie” experience. 15 years ago, everyone said Africans will never eat noodles, last year we sold 1.0 billion cartoons and from one Factory, we now have 16 different factories and brands in Nigeria. So from this company, direct employment has been created to about 60,000 people and indirectly about 200,000. If you go and visit our Carpet factory in Ikorodu Lagos, it is the largest and most modern Carpet Factory in Africa. We have one of the best brands, it is about making a statement that you can be a successful company in Nigeria; irrespective of where you come from.



Why are Singaporean firms not listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange NSE?



We plan to list Dufil Prima Foods Plc, the company producing the Indomie brand on the Stock Exchange next year; the idea is to build a company to a certain level, and when the time is proper you take it for listing on the Stock Exchange. Already, we are a public company; but not yet quoted.


Singapore adjudged the best business environment by World Bank



Singapore is a competitive environment; because we make business easy. When you consult our Economic Development Board (EDB), you tell them your idea and what you would like to do, thereafter, an officer of the Board would be assigned to you; whose sole responsibility is to ensure that you get all information required for such a business. Also the NPIC is playing a similar role in Nigeria; trying its best to create a one stop centre and the only way we can get them to be successful is when all the other organisations,Government ministries and Agencies support its activities and make it successful. Thus, when people come, they can get all the information they need.





EDB is the lead government agency responsible for planning and executing strategies to enhance Singapore’s position as a global business centre and grow the Singapore economy. They dream, design and deliver solutions that create value for investors and companies in Singapore.  In so doing, they generate economic opportunities and jobs for the people of Singapore; and help shape Singapore’s economic future”.



Source: EDB website



Advice on Nigeria’s energy problem


This is a worldwide problem that needs to be resolved, as countries go out to look for alternatives, the problem we have in Singapore is that we have no energy; we have to create ours, be it Solar, biofuels, wind and fuel cell technologies.



Right now, we are producing energy based on Gas; which we have to import from neighbouring countries. In future, if all these sources are depleted, what do we do? So we start thinking about it now and begin to create alternative solutions of getting energy.



This is something that Nigeria needs to do; we have so much of Gas in Nigeria; yet the country is unable to produce one power plant with Gas. The recent launch of the Electricity reform Act by Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would make a positive change for people to come into Nigeria and invest in power plants.




“On August 26 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan in Lagos Nigeria; launched the Roadmap which aims to revamp the nation’s power sector”.



What do we really lack in doing business in Nigeria?



It is all about leadership, if you want things to happen in the country, get the right people to run the business. I am talking about leadership at all levels; you cannot compromise this.



Your expectations from the African Business Group initiative from Singapore and the African countries



Think and observe how do others perceive Africa, if you recall about 10 years ago, The Economist had an Headline “Africa the Doomed Continent” and they made a big statement that Africa would not come out of this so-called dooms day scenario. But as Entrepreneurs in Asia, we asked ourselves questions, is there an opportunity to do business in Africa? And that is the statement we are trying to make with initiatives like the Singapore-Africa Business Group. We are trying to educate people that Africa is not a bad place to do business. And we would try and link the rest of the world with businessmen based in Africa; so that they can share their success stories to the rest of them. This is the task of the Africa-Singapore Business Group; to basically educate everyone on the opportunities of doing business in Africa and how to go about it.



How can Lagos State imbibe the culture of Singapore to create a good business environment?



Lagos State is already on its way to create a model, Babatunde Fashola; the Governor of the State has put in a lot of effort in the right direction. The pertinent question is that does he have all he resources required to execute this programme? Does he have enough funding to fix all the roads, a framework to create an independent power plant? If all these can be resolved, we will create a better business environment in the State. This requires complete and concerted effort.



How did Singapore with its diverse religion and culture be able to maintain security?


I think the leadership took a decision in the 1960s when we saw all our multiracial communities having tense moments; till today, you cannot discuss religion publicly in Singapore. We also created social structures within the country whereby when we started building houses for our people, we try to integrate all the multiracials in the same place. So, you cannot have a building and say it is only Chinese that are required to live in it, there is no such thing. We allocate based on the population of races in that place. We have managed to create an identity of being a Singaporean rather than a race; you do not go out there and say you are an Indian or Chinese.





There are three major ethnic groups in Singapore these include the Chinese (75%) Malays (14%) and Indians (9%). While the minor groups are Arabs, Armenians, Eurasians, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans and Pakistanis. 


(Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)



Expectations on the trade relations between Nigeria and Singapore in the next one year.



It will grow to about 30 percent (30%) about $1.0 billion. If you observe the number of Nigerians already heading out to Singapore to do business; has grown. And they go and come back to tell us of their pleasant experiences. Singapore has got a lot of websites to help sort all these out by providing adequate and up to date information. We have already put in place an (e-government), so all these are in electronic format.
























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