Africa Ireland Economic Forum delegates told that trade is expected to soar over coming years. Minister for Development and Trade Promotion Seán Sherlock said exports from Ireland have increased by approximately 25 per cent in recent years.
Trade between Ireland and Africa is expected to reach €24 billion by 2020 as more than one in ten Irish chief executives look to target business opportunities in the region.
Speaking at the opening of the Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin on Thursday, Minister for Development and Trade Promotion Seán Sherlock said exports from Ireland have increased by approximately 25 per cent in recent years while imports from sub-Saharan African countries have doubled.
Total merchandise trade between Ireland and Africa increased by 35 per cent from 2010 to 2013, from just over €1.7billion to over €2.3 billion. In addition, total services trade in 2012 was €1.7 billion.
Mr Sherlock told delegates at the forum of the huge potential that Africa presents for Irish Businesses, with growth rates across Africa averaging 4.8 per cent for 2013 and with projections for 2014 at 5.1 per cent.
“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,” he said.
“In the last three years we have seen an increase of 25 per cent in Irish goods exports to sub-Saharan Africa and 27 per cent 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 per cent 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,” he added.
The Africa Ireland Economic Forum, which is organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, brings Irish businesses together with African partners to explore opportunities for trade and investment. More than 350 delegates are attending the forum this year including attendees from at least 17 African countries. Among the guest speakers at this year’s event are Simon Milner, ?policy director, UK, Middle East and Africa, Facebook and Dr Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
According to the newly-established African Business Forum, which was launched at the Dublin event, trade between Ireland and Africa has grown enormously in the last few years .
“Ireland’s long standing connection through aid and missionary work has established excellent relationships in Africa. This legacy, combined with Africa’s growing middle class and Ireland’s global reputation of producing quality goods and services, leads to export opportunities across a range of sectors including food and drink, technology, and infrastructure,” said Simon McKeever, chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, which is behind the new African Business forum.
The IEA indicates that South Africa is currently perceived as the African nation with the most potential for Irish businesses, with Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco also offering immediate scope for trade and commerce.
According to a survey from PwC, which is supporting the African Business Forum, 13 per cent of Irish chief executives say they are actively targeting Africa as an export market, up from 9 per cent in 2013.
President Michael D Higgins is to travel to Africa next week where he will be visiting Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa.