“The challenge that we face is strong financial links with banks in Africa. Without financial services, I don’t think our entrepreneurs or investors, and small and medium-sized enterprises can actually tap into the huge potential in Africa,” Hassanbhai, chairman of the Africa Business Group (AFBG), told CNBCafrica.com.
“Most critical is finding competitive premiums for risk management – this is equally important. In every transaction, risk management, risk evaluation, risk insurance needs to be catered for, and this is something that is missing. This links back to the financial links we have with Africa.”
(READ MORE: Africa a top global business expansion destination)
The AFBG was formed under the auspices of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), which recently established a Centre for African Studies to help Asian firms expand into the continent.
“There is a wealth of institutional knowledge on Africa in Singapore. The centre was created to form a one-stop platform,” Hassanbhai said.
“Hopefully we develop content that will serve not only the Singapore business community but also the surrounding South East Asian, or now what is commonly known as the ASEAN, community.”
The centre aims to provide thought leadership on Africa, build capacity for governments and executives, build human capital on Africa and foster an integrated Africa-Singapore network.
“When we talk about providing thought leadership on Africa, we want to bring people who are practitioners of business in Africa to this part of the world,” Hassanbhai explained.
“Singapore executives and African executives need to connect, and also need to understand the different types of business cultures that exist in different areas of geography. We want to offer executives programmes so that the learning curves of the business cultures can be shortened.”
Hassanbhai stated that there are some commonalities between Africa and Singapore but that economically, the relationship needs to be reinforced.
“This is where we want to strengthen our relationship with Africa. Economically we have been very small players. We’ve been very insignificant players,” he said.
“Politically, it is not new, it’s an old relationship. But we need to revitalise that particular relationship. The relationship that we want to extend and strengthen is basically in the economic area.”
He added that while Singapore has ramped up its economic activity with Africa in the last seven years, it is still a very small percentage.
(READ MORE: Singapore’s investments in Africa hit US$16 billion)
Hassanbhai also drew comparisons between the two regions’ large consumer markets but emphasised the need for technical knowledge in Africa.
“Africans are well educated on a tertiary level but when we hear the narrative about how the large unemployment population varies in Africa, we find that technical know-how is very minimal. Singapore’s success story – one of the pillars has been to provide technical education,” he stated.
“We need to make ASEAN, and especially Singapore businessmen, aware of what Africa is. Africa has been a distant kind of place and we want to find ways of using technology to foster an integrated network between Africa and Asia.”