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Trade between Africa and Ireland to reach €24 billion by 2020

Trade, News/feature, Africa, Ireland, 2014

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. ”


Press Office

30 October 2014


Note for Editors:



  • The Fourth Africa Ireland Forum is organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in co-operation with the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School and the African Ambassadors to Ireland.


  • It seeks to build on the economic ties between Africa and Ireland and to assist Irish companies in entering the African market place by highlighting opportunities and positive experiences of Irish companies operating in and doing business with African countries. 


  • Details of the Forum, including a full programme and biographies of all speakers can be found at www.dfa.ie/aief  


  • Events taking place alongside the Forum include an Invest Nigeria Day organised by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Ireland on 31 October and a Diaspora and Development Forum to be held on 31 October and 1 November organized by the UCD Clinton Institute.


  • 25 speakers including those representing six African countries, Irish State Agencies and companies, International Institutions including the UN and World Bank, and multinational companies based in Ireland are attending the AIEF.


  • Over 350 delegates are expected to attend including attendees from at least 17 African countries.


  • The Forum brings together approximately 300 African and Irish delegates representing companies, State Agencies and Governments from over 18 counties at the largest economically focused event on Africa in Ireland.


  • The very strong interest in the event underlines the growing importance of Ireland’s economic relationship with African countries.


  • Discussions and presentations from top Irish and African business leaders covered topics such as Economic transformation in African economies; the growing impact and use of technology across Africa; construction and infrastructure development opportunities, Agri-business development and questions around managing Aid and Trade.


  • Total merchandise trade between Ireland and Africa increased by 35% from 2010-2013, from just over €1.7bn to just over €2.3bn.


  • Exports from Ireland increased by approximately 25% while imports from sub-Saharan African countries doubled.


  • Total services trade in 2012 was €1.7bn in 2012. (figures for 2013 not yet available).


  • African partners identify job creation, foreign direct investment, trade, indigenous enterprise and private sector development as key drivers of development.


  • Growth rates across Africa averaged at 4.8% for 2013 and projections for 2014 at 5.1%. 


  • Ireland has just re-opened an embassy in Kenya, meaning we are now represented in the strongest economies of West, East and Southern Africa – Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. There are now 12 Embassies in Africa.