Prof Yang Jian, Vice President and Senior Fellow in Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS), gave an overview of the latest developments of the Health Silk Road (HSR) and China's work to bridge the global vaccine gap at the Chamber’s Belt and Road Working Group, hosted by Edmond Yue, Co-convenor, on 11 April. He said China had recently pledged to supply an additional 1 billion vaccines to Africa, on top of the 2 billion pledged globally in 2021, to help the continent achieve its goal of vaccinating 60% of the African population by 2022. The country was also working with the international community to promote mutual vaccine recognition.
Also speaking at the meeting, Henry Tillman, Founder of China Investment Research, gave members an in-depth analysis of China's mRNA vaccine development, saying there was hope that one or two mRNA vaccines would be released in late 2022. China was working closely with over 27 developing countries via technology transfer and joint ventures to help them set up factories to produce vaccines locally, among which Indonesia, Pakistan, UAE and Uzbekistan led in number of vaccines produced. He encouraged members to explore investment opportunities in medical infrastructure and pharmaceutical manufacturing along the HSR.
We had a constructive meeting with Rex Chang, the new Commissioner of Belt and Road Office on 14 March. He was accompanied by Mary Tsang, Assistant Commissioner of Belt and Road Office and Helen Cheng, Trade Officer of Belt and Road Office, and were welcomed by Chamber CEO George Leung and Belt & Road Working Group Co-Convenors Edmond Yue and Nicholas Ho.
Chang said despite the pandemic, the government's plan for the BRI was to maintain the same momentum and promote Hong Kong's role as a functional platform between the Mainland and the international community. His office had organized a few webinars with ASEAN counties, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and was planning to organize another session with United Arab Emirates soon, a country with which Hong Kong had seen business ties growing rapidly in the past couple of years.
Apart from connecting Hong Kong to the international market, Chang said it was also important to bring Hong Kong and Mainland businesses together and find synergy. With that in mind, his office was organizing a few events with Mainland authorities to help promote integration of Hong Kong's state-of-the-art professional services sector with projects owners in the Mainland. He added there were many opportunities in green financing to help build a sustainable BRI.
Abdelbasset Ghanmi, Chairman of the Tunisian Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) joined our Asia and Africa Committee meeting on 9 March to discuss business and investment opportunities in Tunisia. Due to historical ties, over 80% of the Tunisia's trade and investment is with Europe, but the country is expanding its business relationships with other regions, in particular Southeast Asia and North America.
Ghanmi explained that Tunisia was well known for its innovation and technology sector, consistently topping the charts of North Africa for scientific and technical articles and possessing the continent's best information and communication technology infrastructure. The country's digital sector is valued at €3 billion and growing at over 7% per year. He said other opportunities in sectors such as the textiles, packaging, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, and medical tourism were also growing rapidly. Members interested in Tunisia are welcome to contact the secretariat for more information.
We had an informative online session on investing in the Asia Pacific real estate market on 21 February. Neil Brookes, Global Head of Capital Markets at Knight Frank, said the APAC real estate market saw record-breaking transaction volumes of US$210 billion, with China, Japan and Australia the most active markets. He expects a further 5-10% growth in 2022 as borders gradually reopen, with logistics, residential and office assets highly sought after.
Dr Henry Chin, Global Head of Investor Thought Leadership and Head of Research, Asia Pacific at CBRE Research, said the accelerating growth of omnichannel retail and demand for more resilient and efficient supply chains will be the key drivers in logistics. Investors are looking at Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines as their key new markets.
Also speaking at the event, Regina Lim, Head of Capital Markets Research at JLL, said the pandemic hit the hotel, office and retail sectors heavily and highlighted to investors the need to place more focus on income-resilient assets such as multi-family, self-storage, data centres and more. She added there is growing demand for Grade A green office buildings to replace traditional, less efficient ones.
Looking ahead, the speakers expected challenges with interest rates hikes and increased competition driving values up. It also remains to be seen how the developments of the Chinese property debt crisis will ripple through the wider market.