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Tharman leads Singapore delegation on business mission to East Africa

DEPUTY Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is heading a 35-member business and government mission  to East Africa as he makes official visits to Kenya and Rwanda.

The delegation will visit both countries' capitals, meeting high-level government officials as well as representatives from the region's largest conglomerates.

The mission, which also involves the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), will end on Saturday.

It comprises representatives from 20 companies and organisations, hailing from sectors such as info-communications technology; real estate and hospitality; construction and infrastructure-related services; shipping and logistics; agriculture and agribusiness; education; fintech solutions; manufacturing; fast-moving consumer goods; and general trade sectors.

The East Africa region's GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 5.9 per cent in 2017 was the best on the continent and above the average of 3.6 per cent, led by Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia and driven by private consumption and investment, as well as growth in light manufacturing and agriculture.

SBF chairman S S Teo, who is leading the Kenya segment of the mission, said: "There is often the misperception of Africa being a big boy's market, when in reality it is more SME-friendly. It is a huge market that offers an array of opportunities across various sectors and in varying sizes, which makes it ideal for SME entrants, given their more nimble structures."

Mr Teo, who is executive chairman and managing director of Pacific International Lines, added: "The Federation has seen Singapore SMEs successfully dabble across multiple sectors in these markets, due to the lower competition and barriers to entry."

Leading the Rwanda segment is Eugene Wong, chairman of digital consultancy CrimsonLogic, who said: "The Singapore brand of good quality, reliability and integrity is much welcomed in Africa."

CrimsonLogic has been in Africa since 1994, with its business having "taken off" over the past five years and its Rwanda office opening this month, he added.

Mr Wong noted digital solutions, consumer products and logistics and supply chain as areas where Singapore companies can partner with African ones.

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