A stated goal of Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry is to increase trade relations with the countries in Africa, which currently make up only 1.5% of the country’s total international trade. The continent’s economic potential and recent investments by other Asian nations has led Singapore to explore an expansion of trade, with an initial focus on free trade agreements. Singapore currently has very few agreements with any African nations, but in August, the country was able to work out small agreements with Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.
The hope in Singapore’s government is that in the near future, the recently signed agreements can be built upon and expanded, to become significant incentives for companies to increase exports to the respective countries. From 2009 to 2013, trade between Singapore and Africa increased by 12%, and in 2014 the total trade value was $16 billion. Singapore’s location by the large markets of China and India makes it an attractive option for African companies who hope to gain a foothold in East Asia. In turn, Singapore is optimistic about continued economic growth in African countries, evidenced by an increasing middle class throughout the continent.
To have a meaningful impact, the trade push by Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry will require concessions and cooperation on the part of Singapore and the African countries who wish to pursue agreements, but the willingness is there. Singapore recently announced the creation of an annual African-ASEAN business expo, which will be held in South Africa next year. The country has also held the Africa Singapore Business Forum for the last 4 years, which is where several of the free trade agreements were signed.