African link-up

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

There is “enormous potential” for trade links between Ireland and Africa over the coming years, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said yesterday.

Speaking at the second Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin, he said that despite the crisis, annual economic growth in Africa was running at almost 5 per cent.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is the second-fastest growing region in the world after Asia,” he said, pointing out that Africa has a young and increasingly well-educated population. “By 2050 it is expected that there will be 1.2 billion Africans of working age.”

Stressing how Ireland’s relationship with Africa has evolved to incorporate a greater emphasis on economic links, Mr Gilmore said the agrifood, ICT, pharmaceutical and engineering sectors hold particular opportunities.

More than 250 people attended yesterday’s forum at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, along with African diplomats and politicians, and Irish company representatives.

Dr Karan Sonpar of UCD said a lot could be learned from the experience of western countries in other emerging economies such as India, Brazil and China.

He said that western companies needed to take a long-term view about investing in Africa, and to develop sustainable relationships with local suppliers and distributors.

Western companies should also be aware of competition from local firms emerging as major players on the global stage, he said, highlighting the success of companies such as India’s United Breweries Group and Brazilian food giant JBS.