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Africa Ireland Economic Forum Opens in The Convention Centre Dublin

The fifth Africa Ireland Economic Forum opened in The Convention Centre Dublin today, bringing together over 300 participants representing business, government, policy makers and civil society. Organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in partnership with African ambassadors resident in Ireland, the Economic Forum is a flagship event of the Department’s Africa Strategy. High level speakers at today’s event include Mr Charles Boamah, Vice President of the African Development Bank, Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation of Nigeria, Dr Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Dr Nelson Magbagbeola, Secretary General of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States.

Speaking in advance of her opening address to the Economic Forum, Ms Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:

“It is now almost five years since the first Forum was held back in 2011, launching what was then the new Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which explicitly recognised the complex, multi-faceted nature of Ireland’s relations with Africa.

“We realise more than ever in 2016 that Africa is Europe’s neighbourhood and that the challenges it faces and the opportunities it presents are vital to our wellbeing and prosperity, and will be for decades to come. Since the first Forum was held in 2011, merchandise trade with Africa has grown strongly, from €1.7 billion in 2010 to €2.3 billion in 2015.

“The Enterprise Ireland strategy for the Africa region envisages a growth in Irish-owned exports to the Africa region from €550 million in 2014 to €1 billion in 2018. Irish companies aren’t just exporting, they are also investing. They are contributing to the job creation which is so crucial to meeting the needs of a rapidly growing youth population.”

Reflecting the whole-of Government approach to trade promotion and economic development, Mr. Joe McHugh T.D., Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development and Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture are also speaking at today’s Forum, which highlights the close cooperation between Government and business, with supports and partnerships constantly under development in a range of areas at home and abroad.

Speaking in advance of the Forum, Mark McAuley, Director of Ibec's engineering group said:

"Many Irish companies are already doing business in Africa and there is tremendous potential for growth. It is great to see the Government working to develop economic links. The network of Irish embassies in Africa are a valuable resource for Irish companies looking to work in these markets."

In response to demand, this year’s Africa Ireland Economic Forum has a sectoral approach and is focusing on agri-business, energy/cleantech, and aviation/aerospace. These sectors were chosen because of their significant potential to contribute to lasting economic development in Africa and because of particular Irish expertise in these areas.

Delegations from different African countries have travelled to Ireland for the Forum. Dr Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Trade and Industry said:

“I am delighted to have a led a delegation of Kenyan businesses and business representative organisations to participate in the Africa Ireland Economic Forum this week. We see huge potential to deepen trade and investment relations between Ireland and Kenya, and have been focusing in particular on commercial opportunities in the agri-food sector. I am aware that two-way trade between Ireland and Kenya has been developing strongly – 122% growth from 2014 to 2015 – and we look forward to growing this further.”

From pig-farming in Uganda to renewable energy projects, to the establishment of a direct connection between Ireland and Africa with the opening of an Ethiopian Airlines flight between Addis Ababa and Dublin last year, Irish companies are already doing business across the continent and continually developing new opportunities in conjunction with their African counterparts.

Press Office
17 June 2016