News Details | 27-Nov-2013

NTU and SBF establish Centre for African Studies to help Asian firms expand into the continent

• Southeast Asia’s first Centre on Africa will enable public and private sectors to develop new insights into the emerging continent through:
   o Providing thought leadership on Africa
   o Building capacity for governments and executives
   o Building human capital on Africa
   o Fostering an integrated Africa-Singapore network

• Supported by five of Singapore’s leading investors in Africa – Indorama Group, Olam International, Pacific International Lines, Tolaram Group and Wilmar International

Singapore is poised to strengthen its ties with Africa, as a new agreement paves the way for executives and companies to gain deeper insights and exposure to the continent. The arrangement will also advance thought leadership and inter-disciplinary research benefiting the economies of both territories.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) announced today a new partnership to establish the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies. The Centre is the first of its kind in South-East Asia.

To be hosted at NTU’s Nanyang Business School, the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies will provide in-depth insights on the African markets through research, workshops and programmes.  It aims to build knowledge on business, politics and social economics to strengthen the capabilities of policy makers and businesses for their engagement with Africa. In the longer-term, the Centre will also foster closer relations and understanding between Africa and South-East Asia.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed today at the Africa Asia Oil and Gas Summit (AAOGS) 2013 at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, between SBF’s CEO, Mr Ho Meng Kit, and NTU’s Shaw Chair Professor and Dean of Nanyang Business School (NBS), Professor Ravi Kumar. The signing was witnessed by Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Mr Tony Chew, Chairman, SBF, and Professor Gillian Yeo, Associate Dean of NBS, and some 270 government officials and oil and gas players from Africa and Asia. (Please refer to media release on the AAOGS for more information.)

NBS Dean Professor Ravi Kumar said: “Africa is the world’s last major frontier for business. The continent stands at the cusp of joining the rest of the world in reaping the fruits of economic and social development, with rapidly growing markets that offer tremendous opportunities to businesses.

“Singapore companies are awakening to the immense growth potential of Africa. The NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies will be vital to helping them know the lay of this rich and fertile land, by providing actionable, timely and comprehensive insights, and nurturing leaders with first-hand exposure to the continent.”

The Centre will be launched by June next year.

Africa is the fastest growing region outside Asia today, with an average of 5 per cent GDP growth per annum in the last decade. About one-third of its 54 nations have seen yearly gains in GDP of more than 6 per cent. The continent is fast becoming an attractive FDI destination, with investments inflows to sub-Saharan Africa rising from US$29.5 billion in 2010 to US$36.9 billion in 2011. Singapore’s total trade with the continent is on the rise, from S$7.7 billion in 2009 to S$13.2 billion in 2012.

Recognising the immense opportunities present in Africa, the Centre is a private-sector funded project aimed to address some of the challenges hindering stronger partnerships between both regions. Some of these are the lack of business, political, social and economic knowledge to support decision making by our executives and policy makers.

Being a new frontier market, there are few Singaporeans with working knowledge on Africa.  The business community needs more people with the right market expertise to tap the long term opportunities in Africa.  The quest for knowledge on Asia from Africans is equally strong. Many African countries send official and business delegations to Singapore and our neighbouring countries annually to establish contacts and to study our development model.

With the above issues in mind, the Centre will strive to provide thought leadership on Africa, build human capital for Africa business and fostering an integrated knowledge network for Africa with the numerous education institutions in Singapore. 

Mr Tony Chew, Chairman of SBF commented: “We have established that Africa’s growing middle class, developmental needs and resource wealth hold many opportunities for our companies. Through this partnership between Singapore’s apex business chamber and the nation’s top business school, we will enhance understanding of Africa’s business, economic and social political landscape not only for Singaporeans but also business communities within the immediate ASEAN region. It is our aspiration to make the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies the leading ASEAN authority on African issues.” 

Mr Shabbir Hassanbhai, Chairman of SBF’s Africa Business Group and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria said: “Through the many Africa-Asia exchanges, we have noticed strong commonalities between the two regions – many of us share the same era of independence, production and economic structures.  Africa is closer to home than we think it is. Given these parallels, Asian companies should find greater comfort navigating these markets while sharing their developmental experience, but the existing vacuum of knowledge must first be filled and greater understanding be forged between both regions. The Centre is well-placed to nurture these relations and I am optimistic on the role it will play in taking Singapore’s engagements with the continent to the next level.”

At the Summit, five of Singapore’s leading investors in Africa were recognised for their contributions to the Centre’s funding. Indorama Group, Olam International, Pacific International Lines, Tolaram Group and Wilmar International, have each donated S$1 million to the Centre’s endowment fund and will be the Founding Donors on the Centre’s Governing Board. “We are delighted with the generosity of these founding donors who have given the Centre the head-start it needs. SBF will continue to encourage corporations that have benefitted from their ventures in Africa to support the Centre with funds and expertise so that others, particularly the smaller companies, can also benefit from the growth of the continent” said Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO, SBF. 

Mr Amit Lohia, Group Managing Director of Indorama Group commented: “Indorama is pleased to support the Centre for African Studies initiative in conjunction with other leading Singaporean companies, NTU, and the Government of Singapore.  We have been operating in Nigeria since 2006 and are delighted by the pace of growth and number of opportunities there, which reflects greatly on Africa as well.  As “South-South” partnership becomes increasingly important, we hope this Centre will facilitate that bond even further.  We are optimistic about the future of Africa and Singapore can be an excellent bridge between Africa and Asia. This Centre is one unique step in that direction.”

Mr Venkatramani Srivathsan, Regional Head, Africa of Olam International said: “Africa has been strategically important to Olam since we first began sourcing cashews from Nigeria 24 years ago, and will continue to be so as the continent’s agricultural revolution takes hold and its national organisations increasingly become strategic partners with intimate local knowledge. It’s widely recognised that Africa needs investment in skills and capability building, expertise and technology – but it’s clear that what is also sought is responsible development that takes into account economic and environmental considerations, cultural understanding and the creation of mutual value for the local communities. The Centre for African Studies will provide the guidance and insight for both South East Asian and African companies to achieve their goals and to benefit from a truly integrated Africa-Asia network. We are proud to be a founding sponsor for the Centre.”

Mr Teo Siong Seng, Managing Director of Pacific International Lines commented: “PIL has been working with Singapore Business Federation (SBF) for many years now and we value the support and trust fostered over the years. We are pleased to be part of the initiative to encourage the Centre’s establishment, given PIL’s long-standing relations with the African market. PIL has played an active role in the growing African economy since 1967. Being one of the pioneer companies offering shipping services to Africa ex Far East/China, we have gained much local knowledge and built a reputation. We also believe that Africa’s time is now – with a growing population and market opportunities, this emerging market has a huge potential for growth.”

Mr Sajen G. Aswani, Group CEO of Tolaram Group said: “Having been involved in Africa for the last 35 years, Tolaram Group is witness to the fact that Africa has moved progressively forward. We think that a think-tank dedicated to African issues will definitely make a positive impact. We look forward to continuously making meaningful contributions to the economic, political and social development of Africa where many of us cut our teeth in the business world.”

Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wilmar International said: “Wilmar is proud to be a founding donor of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies. We have been operating in Africa since 2007 and today we are present in 10 countries across the continent. We are bullish on Africa due to its abundant land, human resources and a fast growing consumer market. We will be pleased to share our experience in order to strengthen business ties between Singapore and Africa.”

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Media contacts:

Nanyang Technological University
Feisal Abdul Rahman, Corporate Communications Office, Tel: 6790 6687; Email:

Singapore Business Federation
Gerald De Cotta, Tel: 6827 6896, Email:
Rachelle Lee, Tel: 6827 6806, Email:

Indorama Group
Prakash Kejriwal, Email: 

Olam International
Nikki Barber, Email:

Pacific International Lines
Lisa Teo, Email:
Vanessa Soh, Email:

Tolaram Group
Angela Chin, Email:
Wilmar International
Iris Chan, Email:

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

For more information, visit 

About Nanyang Business School

Consistently ranked among the world’s premier business schools, NBS has been nurturing leaders for business and public service, advancing global management knowledge and practice for over 50 years. Our curriculum melds rigorous academic theory with real-world business practice, while our faculty leads global thought and research in several fields of business and finance. Our 35,000 alumni hold positions of responsibility in business, government and public service in 45 countries. At NBS, we believe that responsible leadership in business and government is crucial to securing a sustainable future for our world. Through teaching and research, we are grooming a new generation of leaders with the knowledge, skills and passion of pursuing lasting success that seeks not only economic profit but also the interests of the community and environment.

For more information, visit  

About Singapore Business Federation

As the apex business chamber, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) champions the interests of the business community in Singapore in trade, investment and industrial relations. Nationally, SBF acts as the bridge between the government and businesses in Singapore to create a conducive business environment. Internationally, SBF represents the business community in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora for the purpose of trade expansion and business networking.
For more information, please visit our website: 

About Indorama Group

Indorama started with the establishment of a yarn manufacturing plant in 1976 in Indonesia. Today, with group sales of over $10 Billion and manufacturing sites in over 20 countries, Indorama is a lead global manufacturer of industrial polymers and products including Polyester, Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Spun Yarns, Fabrics, and Medical Gloves. It is the second largest producer of Polyolefins in Africa and the largest in West Africa.

About Olam International

Olam International is a leading global integrated supply chain manager and processor of agricultural products and food ingredients, supplying various products across 16 platforms to over 13,600 customers worldwide. From a direct presence in more than 65 countries with sourcing and processing in most major producing countries, Olam has built a global leadership position in many of its businesses.

Headquartered in Singapore and listed on the SGX-ST on February 11, 2005, Olam currently ranks among the top 50 largest listed companies in Singapore in terms of market capitalisation and is a component stock in the Straits Times Index (STI), MSCI Singapore Free, S&P Agribusiness Index and the DAXglobal Agribusiness Index. Olam is the only Singapore firm to be named in the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Forbes Asia Fabulous 50, an annual list of 50 big-cap and most profitable firms in the region. It is also the first and only Singapore company to be named in the 2009 lists for the Global Top Companies for Leaders and the Top Companies for Leaders in the Asia Pacific region by Hewitt Associates, the RBL Group and Fortune.

More information on Olam can be found at

About Pacific International Lines

Pacific International Lines (PIL) is ranked 14th amongst the top container ship operators in the world. The company offers container liner and multi-purpose services at over 500 locations in 100 countries worldwide, covering Far East, Africa, Middle East, Indian Sub-Continent, Oceania, Europe, Latin America, West Coast North America.

PIL has diversified into logistics related activities such as supply chain management, consolidation/distribution facilities, warehousing, multi-modal services, container depot/terminal operations as well as having interest in ship agencies worldwide, container manufacturing/repairs, ship recycling, marine services and real estate.

For more details, visit

About Tolaram Group

Established in 1948, Tolaram Group is headquartered in Singapore, and has since expanded operations to Nigeria, Estonia, Indonesia, Ghana and India. The Group has a diversified portfolio consisting of manufacturing, marketing & distribution, real estate, infrastructure and power transmission & distribution businesses.  Manufacturing interests span packaged foods, paper, floor coverings, textiles and personal care products.

The Group currently employs over 9,500 people. Strategic partnerships and a global network have always been Tolaram Group’s strengths and the Group is constantly seeking new ventures that will reinforce operations worldwide.

For more information, please visit

About Wilmar International

Wilmar International Limited, founded in 1991 and headquartered in Singapore, is today Asia’s leading agribusiness group. Wilmar is ranked amongst the largest listed companies by market capitalisation on the Singapore Exchange.

Wilmar’s business activities include oil palm cultivation, oilseeds crushing, edible oils refining, sugar milling and refining, specialty fats, oleochemicals, biodiesel and fertilisers manufacturing and grains processing. At the core of Wilmar’s strategy is a resilient integrated agribusiness model that encompasses the entire value chain of the agricultural commodity processing business, from origination and processing to branding, merchandising and distribution of a wide range of agricultural products. It has over 450 manufacturing plants and an extensive distribution network covering China, India, Indonesia and some 50 other countries.
The Group is backed by a multinational workforce of about 90,000 people.

Wilmar’s portfolio of high quality processed agricultural products is the preferred choice of the food manufacturing industry, as well as the industrial and consumer food catering businesses. Its consumer-packed products occupy a leading share in its targeted markets. Through scale, integration and the logistical advantages of its business model, Wilmar is able to extract margins at every step of the value chain, thereby reaping operational synergies and cost efficiencies. Wilmar remains a firm advocate of sustainable growth and is committed to its role as a responsible corporate citizen.

For more information, please visit  


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