Ireland out to boost Africa presence

European country is seeking to extend its footprint in the continent.

Kenya 's Foreign Affairs minister Amina Mohamed (left) and her Irish counterpart Simon Coveney unveil a plaque to mark the formal opening of the Irish Embassy in Nairobi on November 8, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG 

Ireland is out for closer engagement with African partners, the country’s Foreign Minister Mr Simon Coveney has said.

The diplomat, on a three-day visit to Kenya and Ethiopia, told of the European country’s readiness for partnership with African countries in many sectors among them "political support and encouragement of stable democracy".

Ireland with a population of just 4.5 million is a major global economic player hosting many top firms such as IBM, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Dell Computers and Google and Guinness.

The country produces food that is 10 times its population’s demand raking in about 11 billion euros ($12.8 billion) annually from export of its surplus, mainly dairy and meat products. Its unemployment rate has fallen from 16 per cent to 6 per cent in the last seven years.

Mr Coveney said "the Irish story can be a point of reference and learning for rural economies in East Africa, especially Kenya and Ethiopia."

"In many countries, agriculture is associated with poverty. For many years, Ireland was a producer of raw materials. This is no longer the case."

He said Ireland would also join in the push to ensure sufficient African presence on the UN Security Council through reform of the global body to create extra seats. He added that his country would also help countries in the continent meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty.

"Ireland believes that the European Union and African Union should develop a much more deeper and more comprehensive bilateral, political partnership. We have many problems that we need to solve together."

As part of these goals, EU and African leaders will meet in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire later this month. The gathering, which takes place every three years alternating between Europe and Africa, focusses on finding solutions to issues affecting both continents, in particular climate change, food and water security, conflict and political instability, migration and rapid population growth.

On Irish-Africa ties, Mr Coveney said many people in East Africa are likely to have been educated by Irish missionaries over the years and that Irish development aid programmes support projects in many countries.

In addition to launching of a new Irish embassy in Kenya on Wednesday, the two countries signed a pact to boost food security with focus on Kenya's dairy and fisheries sectors.

“Our objectives are to increase Ireland-Kenya trade value in agri-food by 100 per cent, strengthen defined policies, institutions and businesses in support of the food sector in Kenya,” said Mr Coveney.

The embassy in Nairobi will also serve Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea.

Mr Coveney was also scheduled to visit Mogadishu having been in Addis Ababa the previous day.

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