Coveney welcomes moves to avert African food crisis, highlights State’s deepening ties with region

Minister for Foreign Affairs was speaking at the Africa Ireland Economic Forum event in Dublin

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has welcomed steps taken by the African Development Bank to avert a food crisis in the region in the wake of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports while highlighting the opportunities for Irish companies in Africa, a rapidly growing market of more than 1.2 billion people.

Addressing the Africa Ireland Economic Forum event in Dublin, Mr Coveney spoke of the State’s deepening economic and cultural links with the continent and the potential for even closer trading ties, with two-way trade set to reach €5 billion by 2025.

However, he could not avoid the looming food crisis in the region sparked by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent blockade of ports.

Before the war, African countries imported 44 per cent of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Most of that is now trapped in Ukraine. Rising oil and fertiliser costs and the lingering effect of pandemic have compounded the potential shortages.

“I welcome the steps taken by the African Development Bank Group to address the immediate and critical risk of food insecurity and the bank’s broader focus on building the resilience of African countries,” Mr Coveney said.

The bank recently approved a $1.5 billion (€1.4 billion) Emergency Food Production Facility to help tackle the global food crisis sparked by the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

The funds are aimed at helping 20 million African farmers to produce an extra 38 million metric tons of food to address growing fears of starvation and food insecurity on the continent.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank Group, is due to deliver the keynote address later this afternoon.

In his address, Mr Coveney said Africa’s rapid economic transformation had led to a new middle class across the region that is “shaping new consumer preferences”.

With a population of about 1.2 billion people currently, Africa is expected to account for half of the world population growth by 2050.

“The scale and pace of Africa’s economic growth is breathtaking. Africa has the youngest and fastest-growing population of all continents,” he said.

He said the Republic has been expanding its embassy and agency footprint in Africa with new embassies in Morocco and Senegal, and a strengthened presence of state agencies — Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and IDA Ireland — across the continent

Mr Coveney also highlighted Africa’s vulnerability to climate change — noting Ireland was making an additional contribution of €2 million towards the African Development Bank Group’s work on climate adaptation — and the importance of inclusivity, in particular female participation, in future development.

“The power and promise of Africa’s women to transform the continent’s economies is enormous. At 26 per cent, Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs in the world. And they contribute 13 per cent of Africa’s GDP,” he said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times