25 Aug 2016

The Business Times

By LEE U-WEN

Singapore

THE government on Wednesday put pen to paper on three major deals with African countries, which will go a long way towards boosting greater trade and investment between Singapore and Africa.

Singapore's Industry Minister S Iswaran was at the opening of the fourth Africa-Singapore Business Forum to sign all three bilateral pacts: An avoidance of double taxation agreement (DTA) with Ethiopia, an investment treaty with Mozambique, and an air-services agreement with Nigeria.

He stressed that Singapore companies have to venture beyond the traditional overseas markets to seize opportunities in untapped economies in regions such as Africa.

Singapore's total trade with Africa stood at S$10.95 billion last year. As of end 2014, the Republic's total direct investment abroad in Africa was S$22.1 billion, while its stock of foreign direct investment from Africa came up to S$21.5 billion.

Commenting on the new agreements, Mr Iswaran described Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria as Africa's "fast-growing" economies, and said the deals are a commitment by both sides to support two-way trade, tourism and investment.

The Ethiopia-Singapore DTA clarifies the taxing rights between the two countries on all forms of income flows from cross-border business activities, and minimises the double taxation of such income.

The bilateral investment treaty between Mozambique and Singapore sets rules on how Mozambique should treat investments from Singapore, and vice-versa.

Singapore firms already operating there will enjoy protection on top of what is already accorded by Mozambique's domestic laws.

The air-services agreement between Nigeria and Singapore will provide a framework for setting up air links; their carriers will be allowed to operate a fixed number of passenger and cargo flights between Nigeria and Singapore, and to destinations beyond.

Separately, Surbana Jurong announced on Wednesday that it has signed a number of agreements to expand its footprint in Africa.

The Singapore-based urban development consultancy said it had inked deals with the Royal Bafokeng Nation and three international organisations: real-estate developer Mixta Africa, investment firm Quantum Global and the International Federation of African Consular Chambers & Trade.

The Royal Bafokeng Nation, which has an asset value of about US$4 billion, is a traditionally governed community of around 150,000 people living in South Africa's North West province.

Surbana Jurong said in a statement that it has already undertaken projects in 15 African countries, including Ghana and Gabon, and will continue to do so in more countries.

Surbana Jurong's chief executive officer (International) Teo Eng Cheong noted that Africa is the second-fastest urbanising continent after Asia, and that its demand for urbanisation and infrastructure was burgeoning.

"Our work there will include designing affordable housing and formulating long-term development and capacity-building solutions by unlocking Africa's resources in a sustainable way that will positively impact its economic and social development," he said.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to organise a new Africa-Asean Business Expo; the maiden event is to be held in the South African capital Johannesburg in November 2017, and the second edition, in Singapore in August 2018.

Billed as a way to open a business gateway between Africa and Asean, the exhibition is organised by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and Conference & Exhibition Management Services.

The event will target Asean manufacturers from sectors such as water, infrastructure, healthcare, transportation and education.

READ MORE: Africa is on the ascent and S'pore must ride this wave, says Tharman

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission