Exporters advised to focus on Africa


African markets have more potential for Irish exporters over the next decade than China, according to the Irish Exporters Association.

Association chief executive John Whelan made his comments as a group of 35 Irish companies begin a three-day trade mission to South Africa today to develop imports and exports between the two countries, valued at just over €1.2 billion last year.

“Exports to Africa as a whole last year reached €2.7 billion, an increase of 200 per cent over the three years since 2009,” Mr Whelan said. “Exports to Africa have the realistic potential to reach €24 billion by the end of the decade, which is much greater than that forecast for China.”

Mr Whelan called for more political support, noting that while Ireland had 11 embassies on the continent it had just one trade attache.

“Ireland has a very enviable reputation across Africa arising from its educational and aid support delivered for many decades across Africa,” he said. “But other countries are now eating our trade breakfast, as the continent has moved to fastest-growing region globally according to the IMF.”

The Irish delegation, which involves companies with a presence in South Africa and firms entering it for the first time, is part of a drive by Enterprise Ireland and the Government to grow exports by capitalising on emerging opportunities.

“We are trying to ensure Irish companies establish and position themselves well for the long term. We see South Africa as the gateway to the rest of the continent,” said Kevin Sharry of Enterprise Ireland.

There are 180 Irish companies with a presence in South Africa, employing more than 13,000 people.