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The Africa - Asean Business Forum

The Africa - ASEAN Business Forum was hosted at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, from 6-7 November 2017 during the inaugural Africa - ASEAN Business Expo (AABE) 2017, which was held from 6-8 November.

The Business Forum was organised by Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and the Conference & Exhibition Management Services (CEMS) Singapore, and was endorsed by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and supported
by International Enterprise Singapore (IES).

The theme of the Business Forum was Creating Strategic Partnership between Africa and ASEAN countries and aimed to create awareness of the mutual business and investment opportunities in ASEAN countries, South Africa and selected African countries. AABE was aimed at boosting trade across sectors including environmental, construction, infrastructure, water, ICTs and transportation.

Herman Breedt, President of JCCI said it was always important for countries to broaden their trade horizons and reduce their exposure to downturns of domestic economic markets. "A trading forum like this one broadens our horizons and showcases a new region that is relatively unknown to South African business."

The 10-nation ASEAN region is an economic powerhouse, with a combined GDP of US$2.55 trillion in 2016. Collectively ASEAN is the 6th largest economy and 4th largest trade bloc in the world. With Africa a similarly fast-growing regional economy, ASEAN and African businesses are actively seeking closer ties, with Singapore and South Africa positioned to serve as the gateways to their respective regions.

The three-day expo and forum attracted ASEAN and pan-African dignitaries, manufacturers, importers and exporters for meetings on enhancing bilateral trade and investment opportunities for these fast-growing economic blocs.

Speakers at this inaugural event included South Africa Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, the Hon Bulelani Gratitude Magwanishe; South Africa Deputy Minister of the Department of Transport, the Hon Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga; ambassadors and high commissioners from several ASEAN and African countries; as
well as representatives from South African government agencies.

SA Black Business Council During the event a delegation of over 20 local business people, headed by Sello Rasethaba, Chairman of the Black Business Council, held discussions with members of the Singapore-Malaysia Business Mission. This followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on increased trade and investment collaboration between the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and the Black Business Council on the opening day of the AABE on Monday, 6 November.

Addressing the Africa - ASEAN Business Forum, Rasethaba said, "We need to encourage foreign investment into our manufacturing sector, and for ASEAN countries to explore partnerships with South African industrialists. We need to work together to assist our countries to create jobs and grow our economies. This platform can strengthen and promote economic, trade, business and investment ties amongst our countries."

"South Africa is going through difficulty in terms of economic growth, but it is also an opportune time. We are running at an economic deficit, so you came at the right time, when you can invest in our country and we can also invest in your countries."

Rasethaba expressed the hope that the expo, forum and Black Business Council talks with ASEAN manufacturers would enhance further trade and investment between South Africa and ASEAN. "I hope we will go beyond just signing the MoU, and open fences," he said.

Edward Liu, Group Managing Director of Conference & Exhibition Management Services (CEMS), the event co-organiser, said the AABE series and supporting trade missions serve as a strategic platform linking businesses between ASEAN and the African Union (AU), via the commercial hubs of Singapore and South Africa. "These events are aimed at bringing about closer communication and cooperation between Africa, ASEAN and Singapore companies. It is through these events that we will find the right opportunities and put plans into action," he said.

South Africa's Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, congratulating ASEAN on its 50th anniversary this year, noted the great strides the ten ASEAN nations had made in terms of industrialisation. "ASEAN's growth can impact Africa's growth too, if we manage this relationship well," she said. "South Africa and our continent overall shares a rich history of collaboration and socioeconomic relations with ASEAN nation states. Today's expo further strengthens the relationship between our member states as they hare a common desire to influence the global agenda of the 21st century in a manner that reflects the aspirations of developing our regions. This expo is also important as it consolidates our trade and investment relationship, as we look to cementing relations based on mutual and equal benefits."

Highlighting South Africa's radical economic transformation efforts and industrialisation agenda, the Minister said, "We need to expose our own people to the advanced manufacturing and levels of skill and quality out
there, in order to support our own industrialisation programmes."

A second edition of AABE will be held in Singapore in August 2018, and an Indonesia-Africa Business Forum will be staged in Bali in April 2018.

For more information, visit www.aabexpo.com/africa-asean-businessforum/

 The Africa Asean Business Forum.PNG

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