The NTU-SBF Centre for Africa Studies hosted the prize-giving ceremony of its Business Model Competition for a startup in Africa on Tuesday evening 30 August. The congratulatory address was delivered by Her Excellency Hazel Francis Ngubeni, the South African High Commissioner to Singapore.

First of all, allow me to thank you all for your interest in Africa. It is home to a number of us, and we appreciate your interest in this wonderful continent. Developing business models and business plans did require you to delve into the respective countries and industries you were interested in, and required time and effort. As Africans, we appreciate it.

Africa is a continent that consists of 54 countries. You therefore have to be certain that you understand the specific country you had selected. There are various companies here in Singapore that have chosen Africa as a focus of their investments and business. We can name a couple, such as Olam (who is represented here tonight by Mr Venkatramani Srivathsan), Indorama, PIL, Wilmar, Tolaram and Vega Foods, to name but a few.

These companies have seen the potential that Africa represents and have put their money where it mattered. Africa has been good to these companies.

This does not mean that Africa is risk-free. Far from it. You must do your homework before you venture into Africa, as is the case with any other country in the world, I might add.

It is not only at company level that entities are getting involved in Africa. A couple of countries here in the East have seen the massive potential Africa presents with its growing middle class and disposable income, urbanisation, and industrialisation. China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia, to name but a few, are prominent in Africa.

Japan has just this weekend hosted its TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) in Nairobi, Kenya, where it was mentioned that they will be looking at investing more than US$30bn in Africa over the next 3 years. The prime minister from japan, and several heads of government from Africa attended this summit meeting. It is therefore clear that Africa is becoming the place to be!

Singapore has started to realise this potential as well; hence the presentation last week of the Africa Singapore Business Forum, which was well attended by both Singaporean and African countries. In addition, the Centre for African Studies is a private sector initiative given the interest amongst the companies in Africa.

A phenomenon in Africa that needs support and momentum, is that of growing the base of entrepreneurs in Africa. They are the people that create jobs and help to stimulate the economies of Africa. We are seeing governments in Africa emphasizing this need. In the press recently we saw Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia being quite vocal about the need to stimulate entrepreneurship amongst its citizens. This is actually the case for all the governments of Africa. No country can accommodate all its workers in the formal economy and they all need a strong base of entrepreneurs.

I am therefore delighted to see this kind of initiative amongst the undergraduate students of Singapore. If you do your homework well, Africa will reward you richly for your endeavours.

Mr Burger has informed me that the panel and he were delighted by the quality of your analyses and business models. As he said to me, he had seen post graduate students with weaker presentations. I would therefore like to congratulate you on the quality of your presentations.

I would also like to challenge you all to see how and whether you can indeed implement your business models and business plans of your entrepreneurial ideas. That is eventually the challenge. I am sure Mr Burger would be quite willing to support you in this endeavour, should you have questions and need advice. I would like to commit all the African high commissions here in Singapore. I have no doubt in my mind that they would only be too willing to support you in any way they can.

Mr Burger has informed me that the first prize is a trip to Africa for the winning team. I think it is a wonderful idea, and would like to thank Olam for its generosity in this regard. Eventually the best way to get to know Africa and its business opportunities is to visit the country of interest.

I would like to congratulate the 3 teams that have managed to convince the panel of judges of the merits of your business models and business plans. A special word of congratulations to the winning team! Given the level of the presentations, this is then no mean feat! Well done!

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NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies

 

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