The need for African countries to spread the benefits of economic openness and invest in the social foundations of growth was underlined by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in a lecture he gave during a five-day official visit to Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire that ended on Thursday.
Speaking at the Kofi A. Annan Eminent Speakers Lecture, at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Mr Tharman said that with the correct policies, Africa can achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.
He pointed to how the resource-rich region had the potential to diversify its commodity-based economies by moving into agri-industry exports.
It could also use the new African Continental Free Trade Area - a trade pact among the 27 African Union member states - to achieve industrial specialisation and develop the capabilities needed to participate in global value chains.
Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, said investing more boldly in the social foundations of growth is one way of maximising the benefits of economic openness.
"It is investing in the social foundations - in education, in healthcare, in housing - that we create optimism in the future, as well as that sense of togetherness among people of different backgrounds," he told an audience of diplomats, students, government representatives and senior officials of the bank.
He added that African countries must think long term to develop financial resilience and environmental sustainability, and focus on achieving policy coherence and effectiveness.
"These are lessons coming out of the experience of the last 30 years in Asia and Africa. If we each can focus on these strategic orientations, we have more than a fair chance of succeeding," he said in the latest instalment of the lecture series dedicated to the late Mr Kofi Annan, a former secretary-general of the United Nations.
Alongside his trip, Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) had also led a business mission, comprising 17 Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as part of the Ghana-Singapore Business Forum.
The SMEs were interested in expanding into Ghana, which they see as a new entryway into Africa or a new market to augment their existing presence in the continent, said Enterprise Singapore and SBF in a statement.
Mr Tharman, speaking at a business dialogue attended by about 200 Singapore and African business leaders, said West African companies could look to Singapore as a gateway to growing Asia markets.
Several agreements were signed on the sidelines of the forum.
Singapore has been deepening its engagement with sub-Saharan Africa and, during his visit to Ghana's capital Accra, Mr Tharman called on President Nana Akufo Addo, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia and Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.
In Cote d'Ivoire, Mr Tharman met several ministers to discuss ways to enhance cooperation, including sharing Singapore's experience in areas such as housing.
He also met African Development Bank Group president Akinwumi Adesina.
Mr Tharman returned to Singapore yesterday.
This article has been edited for clarity.