Singapore companies in the private and public sectors now have a new avenue to develop greater insights into the emerging continent of Africa.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) yesterday inked a memorandum of understanding to establish the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, the first of its kind in South-east Asia.

Dean of NTU's Nanyang Business School Ravi Kumar said: "Singapore companies are awakening to the immense growth potential of Africa. The NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies will be vital to helping them know the lay of this rich and fertile land, by providing actionable, timely and comprehensive insights, and nurturing leaders with first-hand exposure to the continent."

To be hosted at NTU's Nanyang Business School, the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies will provide insights on African markets through research, workshops and programmes.

It aims to build knowledge on business, politics and social economics to strengthen the capabilities of policymakers and businesses for their engagement with Africa.

In the longer term, the centre will foster closer relations and understanding between Africa and South-east Asia.

The centre, a private-sector funded project that aims to address some of the challenges hindering stronger partnerships between Singapore and Africa, will be launched by June next year.

Five of Singapore's leading investors in Africa - Indorama Group, Olam International, Pacific International Lines, Tolaram Group and Wilmar International - have each donated $1 million to the centre's endowment fund and will be the founding donors on the centre's governing board.