Asia, Africa set for closer ties, says Grace Fu

ASIA and Africa, the world's two fastest growth nodes, are poised for closer co-operation and dialogue in the next decade, said Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu in the Indonesian capital on Monday.

On its part, Singapore will continue to push for closer co-operation between countries in the two regions, at a time when globalisation has brought the continents and their people closer together.

Ms Fu, speaking at a plenary session of the Asian-African Ministerial Meeting, noted the potential for increased inter-regional economic co-operation in the coming years and said the two continents were "doing well for themselves", having grown at a rate of more than five per cent last year.

The meeting, held at the Jakarta Convention Centre, is one of several key events at the week-long Asian-African Conference, which had begun on Sunday in Jakarta; it will end in Bandung on Friday.

Foreign direct investment and trade have increased tremendously between Asia and Africa over the years, growing from just US$2.8 billion in 1990 to US$270 billion in 2012.

Officials say the countries in both continents want to take on greater responsibility in setting global development agendas.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who chaired the day-long ministerial meeting, said: "Growing together is a must. One day, we want to see that the co-operation will not only narrow the development gap among countries, but will also contribute to world peace and prosperity."

In her speech, Ms Fu, who is also Second Environment and Water Resources Minister, noted that the African Union recently adopted "Agenda 2063", a vision for inclusive growth and sustainable development:

"We are seeing political and economic transformation in Africa, which has created new opportunities for co-operation. Singapore, like other states, has responded to this," she said.

In the last four years alone, the Singapore Business Federation, the country's apex business chamber representing 21,000 companies, organised 14 trade missions to Africa.

And international Enterprise Singapore, the government agency responsible for economic co-operation, has opened two commercial centres in Accra in Ghana and Johannesburg in South Africa.

Ms Fu said: "This reflects our businesses' optimism in Africa's long-term outlook. But headwinds can still blow us off course. There are complex challenges that will continually come our way. In a globalised world, no country or continent can isolate itself from events elsewhere."

She stressed the need for countries in Asia and Africa to strengthen their co-operation on global challenges such as combating climate change, piracy and extremist terrorism.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is due to arrive in Jakarta on Tuesday evening, ahead of the second Asian-African Summit starting on Wednesday.

This two-day meeting of Asian and African leaders, hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government. They include Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

The leaders will discuss ways to boost the so-called South-South co-operation - a broad framework for collaboration among countries primarily in the southern hemisphere that are developing, have emerging economies and are relatively poorer - in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said Mr Lee will deliver a national statement on "Strengthening South-South co-operation to promote world peace and prosperity"at one of the summit's plenary sessions.

He will also meet several world leaders on the sidelines of the summit and attend a gala dinner hosted by Mr Widodo at the Istana Negara, the presidential palace in central Jakarta.

This article was first published on April 21, 2015.
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