Trade between Ireland and Africa is expected to reach €24 billion by 2020, Minister for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Cooperation, Seán Sherlock told the Africa-Ireland Economic Forum in UCD’s Smurfit Graduate Business School today.
The forum, organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, brings Irish businesses together with African partners to explore opportunities for trade and investment. Total merchandise trade between Ireland and Africa increased by 35% from 2010-2013, from just over €1.7bn to over €2.3bn.
Minister Sherlock highlighted the huge potential that Africa presents for Irish businesses and investors:
“Africa collectively is on the rise. It is important now that we grasp opportunities and have the vision to see where they can take us and work toward developing strong and equal trade and investment partnerships with African countries.
“In the last three years we have seen an increase of 25% in Irish goods exports to sub-Saharan Africa and 27% with the entire continent. In return we have seen a more than doubling of our imports from sub-Saharan countries and an increase of well over 45% with the entire continent. Improving our people-to-people links and encouraging initiatives to enable business links is a vital element in developing these relationships.
“This year we have invested in our Embassy network across the continent – upgrading our office in Sierra Leone to a full Embassy and reopening our Embassy in Kenya. We now have eleven Embassies across the continent. Irish Embassies and Ambassadors across the continent are engaging with Irish companies entering markets, selling goods and services, investing in countries and winning tenders. This activity has ranged across many sectors including major energy projects, engineering consultancy, agri-business development and education and learning partnerships.
“We want you to make contact. We are interested in hearing from you and working with you and for you. Our Embassies are developing new initiatives including networking links which you can plus into.”
This year the forum will focus on Transformation through Technology and the new business and employment opportunities being created by technology, particularly mobile technology which is transforming the way ideas are communicated and business is conducted across Africa. Some 350 businesspeople are attending the conference.
Among the speakers are Simon Milner, Policy Director, UK, Middle East and Africa, Facebook and Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
Minister Sherlock said: “Science, technology and innovation have been identified as key pillars for Africa’s development in the post-2015 development agenda. A profound economic transformation to improve livelihoods by harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of businesses is crucial to delivering on the goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
“Ireland will work to make sure that our strong traditional relationships with African countries are complemented by an increased economic relationship that works to the benefit of all. This does not mean leaving our traditional commitments behind. It does mean inviting new partners to the table. We continue to look for opportunities to build on our tradition of development cooperation and to develop stronger political and economic links with Africa. ”
30 October 2014
Note for Editors:
The Simon Cumbers Media Fund promotes quality coverage of global development issues in the Irish media