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Singapore signs investment treaties with Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast

Singapore companies operating in Burkino Faso and Ivory Coast will enjoy treaty protection on top of protection under their domestic laws.

SINGAPORE: Introducing new approaches in areas such as logistics and water treatment can be Singapore's role in Africa's development by introducing new approaches, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the 3rd Africa Singapore Business Forum on Wednesday (Aug 27).

"When we think of Africa, we must think of it as an opportunity to add value," he said. "Because Singapore is a very small country, we have never thought about opportunities in the rest of the world in terms of scale - let me go in and grab this, or grab that. It is always in terms of how can I find a small niche for myself, where I can add value, where I can introduce new ideas, new approaches, and raise productivity."

Trade ties between Singapore and Africa are growing. The Republic entered into a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with two African nations, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, at the business forum on Wednesday. 

Singapore's Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr S Iswaran, signed the Burkina Faso-Singapore BIT with Minister for Industry, Commerce and Handicraft Arthur Kafando. The Ivory Coast-Singapore BIT was signed with Minister for Commerce, Craft and SME Promotion Jean Louis Billon.

Both BITS aim to protect investors' interests from the countries involved and open up more business and investment opportunities. Singapore companies operating in Burkino Faso and Ivory Coast will enjoy treaty protection on top of protection under their domestic laws.

Key features of the treaties, according to the MTI release, include:

  • Ensuring that our investments in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast will not be treated less favourably than other foreign investments

  • Providing prompt, adequate and effective compensation in the event of nationalisation

  • Allowing cross border transfer of capital and returns

  • Offering international arbitration as an avenue for our investors to resolve investment disputes

“The treaties will provide our companies operating in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast better protection and greater investment confidence, thus promoting investment flows between our countries. It also highlights the scope for greater economic cooperation between Singapore and Africa. Singapore’s ties with Africa are growing and we look forward to building stronger relations with the region," said Mr Iswaran. 

OPENING UP OPPORTUNITIES

Singapore's bilateral trade with Burkina Faso increased by 15 per cent to S$2.54 million from 2012 to 2013, according to MTI. 

Bilateral trade with Ivory Coast stood at S$36.1 million in 2012, and Singapore's cumulative direct investments there amounted to S$220 million, primarily in the agriculture sector, MTI said. The new BITs will open up more opportunities in sectors such as agriculture.

Potential areas of collaboration will also be explored as bilateral exchanges grow between the countries. Currently, there are a few Singapore firms with a presence in either country, such as Olam International Limited, Agritech and GMG Global. 

Singapore's investment into Africa has reached S$20.1 billion, an 11.2 per cent increase since 2008, said MTI. Bilateral trade has risen steadily at the rate of 11.7 per cent over the past five years, amounting to S$14.1 billion in 2013.

Other than these two treaties, Singapore also has a BIT with Mauritius and Libya. Singapore currently has 41 BITs in force. 

An Air Services Agreement between Singapore and Zimbabwe was also signed on Wednesday, and a Centre for African Studies was launched by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Business Federation.

Other agreements sealed include a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IE Singapore and Deloitte to help Singapore companies expand into East Africa, and MOUs by NTU's Nanyang Business School with the Strathmore Business School of Strathmore University (Kenya) and Lagos Business School of Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria).

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