Ireland and Kenya sign letter of intent to deepen economic co-operation at the start of the Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin

Simon Coveney and Peter Munya
Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya sign a letter of intent to deepen economic cooperation between Ireland and Kenya at the Africa Ireland Economic Forum. Photo: Twitter/BIrlKe

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Trade Peter Munya signed a letter of intent to deepen economic co-operation between their two countries at the start of yesterday’s 6th Africa Ireland Economic Forum (AIEF) at the Convention Centre.

They were joined by Irish Ambassador to Kenya, Dr Vincent O’Neill who briefed the pair on the work of the Irish Embassy in Nairobi.

AIEF is a flagship event of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Africa Strategy, providing a key networking opportunity for African and Irish businesses to discuss opportunities in Africa and identify areas for mutually beneficial trade and investment.

Kicking off the forum in Dublin, Mr Coveney recognised the potential for partnerships between Ireland and countries across Africa, both in agri-business as well as other sectors, and announced that the Irish overseas development budget had been raised to €110 million.

He described the European Union (EU) as one of the most open markets in the world when it comes to African exports, and that there should be a commitment to “integration between Europe and Africa, as we work to meet the challenges together, in an increasingly interconnected world.”

Announcing the launch of an expansion to the Africa Agri-Food Development Programme, which will now include Botswana, Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia and Cote D’Ivoire, Mr Coveney said “The potential for agriculture to transform African economies is enormous.”

He also pointed to the agriculture sector as a possible solution to the 15 million new jobs needed in Africa needed each year and as a way of transforming poverty.

Currently, Ireland exports over $1 billion in agri-food every month and produces ten times the food it needs. Over the last few years, Irish agriculture production has expanded by 52% and Mr Coveney highlighted the potential through expanding the Irish agri-business with Africa to lead the way in female entrepreneurship and technology in agriculture.

Mr Coveney was followed by Keynote Speaker for the event, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Industry, Trade and Co-operatives, Hon. Peter Munya.

CS Munya reflected on the Irish involvement in Kenya’s social economic development over the last 100 years and paid tribute to role of Irish missionaries in Kenyan education and highlighted the €65 Million spent annually in Kenya by Irish NGOs.

Continuing the theme of enabling female entrepreneurship, he referenced how many Kenyan SMEs in a wide range of sectors are run by women, but revealed they are experiencing issues in getting access to finance and land. He stated these issues needed to be resolved and women placed at the centre of Africa’s economic transformation.

He described the financial sector as well diversified with global linkages across the world, adding that “Africa offers one of the most exciting investment opportunities and the traditional narrative of poverty that has been associated with Africa is fast fading.”

Africa Ireland Economic Forum
The Kenyan delegation at the Africa Ireland Economic Forum. Photo: Twitter/BIrlKe

The forum also hosted an Invest in Africa panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities in the African Market. Joining the panel was TradeMark East Africa’s Frank Matsaert who highlighted the importance of border posts in facilitating trade in Africa, and the importance of being able to get products across borders to develop regional value chains.

He also celebrated the fact that waiting times had been reduced from days to just an hour at some border posts and TMEA have been proactive in supporting this work.

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