Held annually since 2011, the Africa Ireland Economic Forum (AIEF) is co-hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and the African Diplomatic Corps in Ireland. The AIEF provides a key networking opportunity for Irish business and African delegates to identify areas for mutually beneficial trade and investment.
The theme of this year’s forum was ‘Transformation through Technology’ with three special panel discussion sessions on: Construction & Infrastructure, Agribusiness and Managing Trade & Aid.
Mr Sean Sherlock T.D., Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation, was among four keynote speakers including Dr Carlos Lopes (Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa), Nora Owens (Chair of the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group) and the Nigerian Ambassador Bolere Elizabeth Ketebu. Minister Sherlock noted that exports from Ireland to Africa have increased by approximately 25 per cent in recent years and trade between Ireland and Africa is expected to reach €24 billion by 2020.
In the last three years, Exports by Enterprise Ireland-supported companies to Africa last year totalled €550m. That’s expected to increase to €800m by the end of 2016. To coincide with the forum, the Irish Exporters Association has established an African Business Forum.
Colm O’Callaghan, tax director with accountancy giant PwC, which is supporting the initiative, said 13% of Irish chief executives confirmed that they are targeting Africa.
The Construction & Infrastructure session was chaired by Koen Verbruggen (Director, Geological Survey of Ireland-GSI). Presentations were made by Geoscience Ireland (GI) members Siobhán Tinnelly (Tobin Consulting Engineers) and Jerry Cronin (Nicholas O’Dwyer Consulting Engineers), Philippe Valahu (Executive Director, Private Infrastructure Development Group), and Jamal Saghir (Senior Regional Advisor, Office of the Vice President of the Africa Region, World Bank).
Siobhán and Jerry delivered an extensive overview of GI’s objectives and collaborative approach to winning contracts as well as case histories of GI infrastructure development, water resource management and capacity building operations in Africa.
President Michael D Higgins is to travel to Africa next week where he will spend 3 weeks visiting Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa to further build on Ireland’s legacy of trade with Africa.
Commenting on the AIEF, Koen Verbruggen the Director of GSI said
“GI is pleased to be a part of Africa’s development roadmap. GI member companies – in particular Nicholas O Dwyer, JB Barry, SLR and APEX have an impressive track record of delivering practical design and project management for infrastructure development and capacity building in Africa. GI welcomes the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and of Enterprise Ireland in this regard”.