Concept image Singapore and Indonesia scenes

Building Economic Engagement with Singapore and Indonesia: Thought Leaders’ Perspectives Syndicated Study

As the Government of Canada seeks to reinforce its engagement with Southeast Asia, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada has taken a closer look at the booming economies of Singapore and Indonesia with this latest project, Building Economic Engagement with Singapore and Indonesia: Thought Leaders’ Perspectives Syndicated Study. Through qualitative interviews with 25 thought leaders from and with extensive experience in both economies, this report outlines each country’s socio-political, cultural, and economic outlook and how they might impact Canadian engagement in the region. The project was supported by subscribers Invest in Canada, Global Affairs Canada, and Export Development Canada. To download this full, dual report, click the download button above.

Key Takeaways for Engagement with Singapore

Centrally located, the city-state of 5.6 million people occupying just 718 square kilometres of land is ideally situated for Canada to increase its connections in the wider region. Singapore’s diplomatic and economic connections worldwide make it an ideal choice for establishing long-term networks. Some of the recommendations by 13 thought leaders:

  1. Listen to what Singapore wants: The government has significant influence over market dynamics, and it is currently prioritizing innovative technologies, digitalization, and renewable energy, with a particular emphasis on solar energy.
  2. Support Singapore’s push for self-reliance: The government’s push for self-reliance is evident, especially in relation to food security. This provides opportunities for partnerships to build lasting solutions in agri-food and the development of resilient supply chains.
  3. Build trust and long-term commitment: Engagement with Singapore should incorporate long-term business commitments and a physical presence in the region. Singapore responds better to stakeholders who make efforts to understand its culture and politics.
  4. Leverage ‘Brand Canada’: Singaporean knowledge about Canada is limited to its natural resources, and while Canada is perceived as a trustworthy country, it lacks effective branding. Better branding, marketing, and an increased presence are much needed in building and sustaining engagement in Singapore.

The city-state ranks high in terms of being an ideal location for business operations and expansion in Asia due to its transparency and straightforward methods for setting up businesses, high competitiveness, and general governmental support. But Singapore also presents strategic challenges pertinent to developing engagement strategies and are explored further in this report.

Key Takeaways for Engagement with Indonesia  

With a burgeoning, young, educated middle class, Indonesia increasingly seeks to engage with international partners. As the world’s largest archipelago with 17,500 islands, Indonesia has a rich history that informs its political, cultural, social, and linguistic diversity. Indonesia is too often treated as a homogenous unit even though the country is home to more than 300 ethnic groups and 700 living languages. Some of the key recommendations by Indonesian thought leaders include:

  1. Explore opportunities for youth and education: Indonesia has a growing youth population, with millions soon entering the workforce. However, these young Indonesians lack access to vocational education and skilled knowledge. The education sector will be an area of importance in the coming years – and a potential area of opportunity.
  2. Support catalyzing digitalization: With 77 per cent of the population using the internet in Indonesia, social media platforms have become key to conducting business and sharing information. E-commerce, m-commerce, and fintech have gained traction in the country. However, innovative tech infrastructure is lacking and in strong demand.
  3. Engagement through local partners: Indonesia’s business environment can be challenging to navigate, and it is essential to build local networks and nurture local partnerships to gain ‘insider knowledge’ of Indonesia’s government, politics, and business culture. Local partners can assist in navigating the differences across Indonesian provinces as the government seeks to diversify economic opportunities throughout the country.
  4. Leverage ‘Brand Canada’: Indonesia lacks awareness, knowledge, and interest about and toward Canada. A visible, physical presence coupled with consistent and effective branding will allow Canada to be recognized as a trustworthy foreign partner in Indonesia.

While Indonesia still presents some challenges in terms of being an attractive location for business growth, the country is paving the way through changes to its laws and regulations to enable foreign engagement. This report further explores what these changes mean for building engagement strategies with Indonesia.