A Call to Associations

You are an international association looking for social and political stability and a highly-developed economy with a variety of key industries; a place where you can be close to your members in your selected region, but also stay connected with your worldwide network of offices; a place where you can manage your business with ease. The small but efficient island of Singapore might be just the place you are looking for to set up shop.

Words Vicky Koffa

As part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it is estimated to become the 4th largest economic region in the world by 2030. And not without good reason; Singapore is as diverse as they come in its industry. Traditionally a trade nation with cultural and linguistic links to many Asian markets, it is a well-placed logistics and supply chain hub, with robust Aviation and Maritime capabilities. Advanced Manufacturing, Applied Health Sciences, Financial Services, Travel and Urban Solutions are just part of what makes up the steadily growing economy. 

A Tight Network with Common Goals

The island’s successful business story is no secret. Multinational companies, banks and start-ups ride on the safety and peace of the region, its determined manpower and its strategic location. And successful business brings associations. International and regional associations alike are creating a trend towards the ASEAN market, Singapore in specific, in order to cover their local needs. What they encounter is ease of doing business both with the local stakeholders and with the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB).

A chat with Dr Edward Koh, Executive Director, Conventions, Meetings and Incentive Travel, Singapore Tourism Board, reveals that “in Singapore we present one common front, regardless whether you are a supplier, organiser or intermediary. I see in the future of meetings a gravitation towards Asia and we are ready to meet this future. Our membership in the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), where four cities represent the four corners of the world, is a testimony of our commitment to bringing European and US associations currently rotating around Europe or the US closer to their ASEAN members.”

Little India, Singapore

The current scene of local association in the country is actually quite interesting. Since the independence of the island, local associations tend to form based on nationality. With a good mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian citizens among others, associations were formed in order to represent the interests of the various ethnic communities, both in terms of business and better quality of life for their people. Evidently, their social mission is as strong as their business one; the modern trend of creating positive impact and leaving a legacy has deep historical roots in Singapore. 

A Wind of Change

Nowadays, however, there seems to be a shift in things. As Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), explains: “As more and more economic activities come into our part of the world, I predict we will see more relevance for a regional type of business associations to be formed and created, not just representing nationalities but representing the ASEAN region in this part of the world. Examples are found in the Food and Finance industries where growth is rising and things get more sophisticated.”

Association members are expanding their demand for representation moving the focus from just one country to a whole region. Singapore has created the sort of association community which can provide close collaboration across the entire ASEAN region. Since 2017, within SBF there are already 31 local, regional and international member associations which form an inclusive platform for knowledge and service exchange, called Trade Association and Chamber (TAC) Alliance, looking at talent development and capability development at leadership level. As more associations join this alliance, the network becomes stronger creating beneficial opportunities for all involved.

This article was written by Boardroom editor Vicky Koffa. The right to use it, in parts or in full, has to be granted by the Publisher.

Mr Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization based in Singapore, bears testimony to how involved associations headquartered here are in strengthening their community. “Associations feel welcome to set up shop here because the government makes it so simple. You receive subsidies according to your size and there is guidance by the economic development board as to how to create a strong network. Not to mention the friendliness of the local association community and the donors,” says Jack Sim.

In fact, Mr Sim has gone one step further in creating a base for new-coming associations looking for a home on the island. His project is called Base of Pyramid (BOP) and it is a 65.000 sq. foot building located 15 minutes from the airport, which offers low rent to interested parties. Yet more proof that associations in Singapore are building an unbeatable community.

Chinatown street in Singapore Chinatown district
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