People of Ireland and Africa ‘share common past’, says President

Michael D Higgins gives address to celebrate Africa Day

President Michael D Higgins has said the people of Ireland and the continent of Africa share “a common past”.

Giving the keynote address at Trinity College Dublin on Thursday to celebrate Africa Day, on Friday, the President said Africa is the continent “of promise and opportunity” in the 21st century while also the focus of global challenges.

“The people of our nations share, despite the great distance in space between us, a common past, born of so many parallel historical experiences; an experience of colonialism, a struggle to preserve and remake our native cultures and dispersed and diasporic national families,” he said.

“Today we share a common destiny, one full of so much potential and so many possibilities, and a determination to create a just and sustainable future for our peoples and our planet.”


Mr Higgins said former Ethiopian president Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe’s statement five years ago that ‘the 21st century will be an African century’ becomes more apparent with every passing year.

“Demographic facts alone make this so. More than any other place on earth, the continent of Africa will be at the centre of our global challenges - it is there the imperatives of survival will be felt most urgently,” he said.

“And more than any other place on earth, the continent of Africa has the potential, the energy and the courage to lead the world in overcoming our shared challenges.

“It faces us with a global challenge. Will we have the courage to allow the flow of technology, science, in practice and with personnel, to flow without borders to Africa?”

Climate change

President Higgins said Africa is bearing and will continue to bear the greatest consequences of climate change.

He said it is now time to deepen and extend co-operation to meet the challenges of the 21st century while welcoming the Government’s commitment to increase the overseas development assistance budget to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2030.

Mr Higgins said today, over 80 per cent of an Irish Aid budget of €707 million is allocated to African partner countries, helping to reduce hunger and build resilience, enhance sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, and promote better governance and human rights.

“My predecessor as president, Mary Robinson, played a very important role in both reflecting and increasing public support for overseas assistance through official visits to Somalia and Rwanda,” he said.

“After her election to the office of president in 1990, she continued her support for the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, a reflection of its growing influence in Irish society.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times