Business chamber to boost Asia, Africa links

PHOTO: Business chamber to boost Asia, Africa links

Africa's vast, largely untapped resources offer opportunities to South-east Asia, a region hungry for new markets - and vice versa.

But a lack of ground knowledge on both sides could hold back investments.

A new business chamber aiming to help make the connection easier was launched on Monday.

Headquartered in Singapore, the Africa South-east Asia Chamber of Commerce (Aseacc) aims to develop high-level business relationships between the regions.

The private-sector body aims to promote more platforms for firms to network and share experience of investing each region.

Aseacc will be led by two co-chairmen, one for Africa and one for South-east Asia.

Mr Jean Diagou, the president of NSIA Group, a major insurance and banking player in West Africa, is the chairman for Africa.

"We have seen first-hand how the development of South-east Asia is driven primarily by the private sector, so the way forward for Africa is to have the African private sector drive the growth of the economy," he said.

Pacific International Lines managing director Teo Siong Seng, also a Nominated MP, is the chairman for South-east Asia.

Membership will be on an exclusive, by-invitation-only basis.

Firms with investments in Africa will be invited to join, and those keen on venturing abroad will be considered later.

"It's by-invitation-only because we want to make sure that the chamber is strong, active and effective at the start," said Mr Teo at a briefing on Monday.

Other members include Togo's Ecobank Transnational, Egypt's Africa Export Import Bank and Gabon's oil and gas firm, Petro Gabon. Singapore members include commodities firm Olam International, Wilmar International and water treatment firm Hyflux.

Local firms say Africa presents major business opportunities

The general manager for Wilmar's Africa operations, Mr Pratheepan Karunagaran, said: "We really see the demand as far as consumer goods go, especially food products, increasing tremendously. There's also good, arable land suitable for plantation."

Hyflux's deputy chief executive Sam Ong added: "Africa is one of the few frontiers left that has tremendous requirement for infrastructure development."

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