Ireland and Africa have continued to intensify efforts to bolster their trade relations. In this piece, KINGSLEY OPURUM X-rays the steps and strategies employed by Ireland and Africa to deepen their diplomatic cooperation.
Plans have been afoot to increase the value of two-way trade between the Republic of Ireland and Africa to at least , €5 billion by 2025.
Details of the plan are contained in a new government strategy document focused on deepening ties between the country and the continent.
With a population of about 1.2 billion people currently, Africa is expected to account for half of the world population growth by 2050.
Trade in goods and services between Ireland and Africa increased by 29 per cent between 2010 and 2017, from €3.4 billion to €4.4 billion. In addition, Irish exports to Africa increased in this period by 39 per cent, from €2.36 billion to €3.28 billion.
Moreover, the European Union is currently Africa’s largest trade, investment and development partner, accounting for 36 per cent of the continent’s external trade and 40 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI).
“Ireland’s business links with Africa are increasing in both directions and, as Africa’s growth continues, these links – whether trade in goods and services, or investments – will deepen and mature,” Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025 said.
Enterprise Ireland has an office in Johannesburg and a presence in Nairobi and Lagos, where Bord Bia is also present.
Under the new strategy, the aim is to increase the agencies’ footprint on the continent so it can better support Irish exporters. There are also plans to appoint an IDA Ireland pathfinder.
Agencies will be supported by Irish Embassies, of which there are 12 with three more due to open in West African in the coming years.
According to the strategy document, there are also plans to expand and enhance the network of double taxation agreements in Africa, increase the number of fellowships available to African students, and support efforts to increase direct air and sea links between Ireland and the continent.
Enterprise Ireland last year, led 42 companies on a five-day trade mission to South Africa and Kenya.
More than 205 of its companies are already active in South Africa and 75 within Kenya, with exports to the two countries growing in the last two years.
Enterprise Ireland client companies exported more than €113 million to South Africa in 2018, an increase of 12 per cent on 2017. Exports to Kenya, meanwhile, were up 4 per cent last year to €29 million.
According to the agency, some 400 client companies are active in sub-Saharan Africa, exporting a total value of €400 million.
Meanwhile, the economy of the Republic of Ireland is a highly developed knowledge economy, focused on services in high-tech, life sciences, financial services and agribusiness, including agrifood.
Ireland is an open economy, which is 6th on the Index of Economic Freedom, and ranks first for high-value foreign direct investment (FDI) flows.
In the global GDP per capita tables, Ireland ranks 4th of 186 in the IMF table and 4th of 187 in the World Bank ranking.
In 2017, Ireland’s exports hit $219.7 billion, and the exported goods were machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, medical devices, pharmaceuticals; foodstuffs and animal products.
Ireland is ranked 24 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The rank of Ireland deteriorated to 24 in 2019 from 23 in 2018.
On it’s aid to Africa, Ireland and the Irish people reportedly have a long and strong connection with South Africa.
To buttress this fact, Ireland established its frist African aid programme in South Africa in 2994, when the country underwent a transition from apartheid to democracy.
The development context in South Africa differs to that of the other Irish Aid country programme in Africa. It is classified as a middle-income country but continues to suffer from the legacy of apartheid with marked inequalities. Ireland’s programme in South Africa is built on the principles of respect and mutual accountability.
The UK state is currently implementing the third of three 1 year country strategies.
A new multi-year country strategy for South Africa is currently being developed. Irish Aid’s current support focuses on an integrated approach to tackling HIV and AIDS and gender-based violence, to addressing skills and capacity deficits in South Africa as well as promoting economic development.
This is said to align with the approach set out in the Africa Strategy.
According to the country, through our Embassy in Pretoria, we will be working to build a deeper economic partnership between Ireland and South Africa.
Enterprise Ireland established an office in Johannesburg in 2012; its first office in sub-Saharan Africa.