Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello TD began an eight day visit to Kenya and Uganda today to promote increased trade with East Africa and see the impact of Ireland’s aid programme.
The Minister’s visit comes a month after he led a successful Trade Mission to Nigeria and South Africa, in which almost 40 companies participated. This mission secured new contracts worth more than €7m in the financial services, telecommunications and education sectors. The Minister will explore opportunities for Irish companies in the Kenyan market in sectors including oil and gas and construction. He will announce plans to develop stronger trade links between the two countries.
Minister Costello said:
”This visit to Kenya is an opportunity to further develop opportunities for the Irish private sector in East Africa. Kenya is an important gateway for Irish companies to the wider East African region where economies are growing at more than 6 % per year.
“The visit is part of the Government’s Africa Strategy, which stresses the need to think beyond aid and to develop stronger political and economic links with African nations. Kenya was identified as a priority country in East Africa, given its potential for growth and its position as a gateway to the East Africa region.”
In Uganda, in addition to exploring trade opportunities, the Minister will see the impact of Ireland’s aid programme. This is the first ministerial visit to Uganda since the Irish Government suspended over €16 million of assistance in October 2012 following the discovery of fraud in the Office of the Prime Minister.
During the visit, Minister Costello will meet with the the Auditor General of Uganda, who has been conducting follow-on audits, with the support of Irish Aid. The Minister will also meet with the Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Minister for Industry and Cooperatives. He said:
“Ireland has no tolerance for corruption. The Government of Uganda has now refunded in full the €4 million of Irish Aid funds which was misappropriated. Ireland has pressed for concerted action following the fraud. To date, the Ugandan Director of Public Prosecutions has opened 99 case files and Irish Aid will be following these cases very closely.
“Ireland will not return to funding through the Ugandan Government until we are fully confident that the Government has strengthened its internal financial controls and acted against all officials who were implicated in this fraud. Our programme of support to Uganda in 2013 is being delivered through trusted non-governmental partners.
The Minister said Ireland continues to work to support the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Uganda:
“Today, with the support of donors including Ireland, Uganda is making real progress. Our programmes support the poorest families to improve their livelihoods, enabling them to send their children to school and invest in their futures. I am particularly looking forward to visiting the Karamoja region where I will launch the Irish Aid funded school building programme in a region where poor facilities has contributed to low attendance, low retention and decreasing pupil performance.”
4 December 2013
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