Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade): Interview

Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade)

Interview: Lim Hng Kiang

What are the advantages to investing in Nigeria, and what can be done to facilitiate deeper ties between Singapore and African countries?

LIM HNG KIANG: The challenging near-term global outlook for resource-based sectors has encouraged governments to intensify their economic diversification efforts. Resource-rich countries such as Nigeria can strengthen their industrial bases against downturns in the commodity market by staying the course towards greater diversification.

Singapore remains committed to strengthening our economic relations with Africa. Our trade and investment ties have been growing over the years. In 2014 Singapore’s stock of direct investments into Africa reached $16.6bn. Investments into Africa have been growing at a 3.4% compound annual growth rate since 2008. We are seeing greater awareness among Singaporean companies – both big and small – of the business opportunities in Africa, and our footprint is growing, which is very encouraging.

Given the wide and diverse interests of our companies, Singapore’s trade promotion agency, International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) has established offices in South Africa and Ghana to provide greater support to Singaporean companies interested in exploring Southern and Western Africa. IE Singapore also organises a biennial Africa-Singapore Business Forum to bring together businesses, governments and thought leaders from Singapore and Africa, to raise awareness of the business opportunities in Africa and facilitate networking between our respective business communities.

What lessons can be taken from Singapore’s experience as an industrialising economy?

HNG KIANG: Singapore gained independence around the same time as many African countries. In recent years, some African countries have expressed a desire to learn from Singapore’s development model. However, every country faces unique circumstances, and we can only provide some insights for African leaders to consider and subsequently adapt.

One of Singapore’s priorities after independence was to strengthen our national institutions in order to create a pathway to sustainable development. These included strengthening the public administrative and regulatory systems, making and enforcing laws, and ensuring the efficient provision of public services. Building up strong and stable institutions instils public trust and creates a conducive environment for the promotion and attraction of investment. Without this ability to effectively introduce and implement sound policies, achieving development goals would be challenging, and hinder progress.

Growth in capacity needs to be coupled with growth in capability. Education and skills development was, and continues to remain, a key focus for Singapore. A skilled workforce would be able to support industrial activities and the work of public institutions. We work closely with industry partners to ensure that the knowledge and skills imparted through our educational institutions remain relevant to industry needs. To allow our local workers to upgrade their skills, we have created continuing education options, allowing them to keep pace with fast-moving technological and regulatory changes.

In our early years of development, the Singapore government had to quickly deal with the issues of high unemployment and illiteracy rates. A better educated and skilled workforce made it easier to attract foreign companies to anchor labour-intensive manufacturing activities in Singapore. African countries would need to find solutions which work best for their needs and circumstances. Resolving infrastructure issues such as power, water, housing and basic education are important first steps. Plans for growing industrial sectors like manufacturing and exports would not be successful without addressing these issues first.

Anchor text: 
Lim Hng Kiang

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