Following the opening of new Embassies in Morocco (2021) and Senegal (2023), Ireland’s diplomatic presence on the continent of Africa has now grown to 14 Embassies from Cairo to Pretoria. This deepening of ties with Africa was envisaged under ‘Global Ireland: Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025’, launched in November 2019.
Our people-to-people connections go back centuries, including missionaries, educators, health and development workers, humanitarian responders and Irish peacekeepers, making a lasting contribution to peace and security. These human ties are further enriched by the presence of African communities in Ireland.
Ireland’s business links with Africa are increasing in both directions and, as Africa’s economic growth continues, these links – whether trade in goods and services, or investments – will deepen and mature.
Driven by our solidarity with the most vulnerable, Ireland has worked for decades on the ground, through the EU, civil society and international organisations to support the sustainable development of African countries. Building on our role as co-chair, with Kenya, of the negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ireland is committed to working in partnership with African countries towards achievement of the SDGs.
The European Union has an increasingly ambitious approach to partnership with Africa. As neighbouring continents, the mutual prosperity and security of Europe and Africa are deeply intertwined. The EU is Africa’s largest trading partner, its largest source of investment and its biggest partner in development cooperation. Ireland strongly supports a much more ambitious EU approach to Africa.
Ireland works closely with African partners at the United Nations, particularly during our tenure on the Security Council, to advance shared values, to strengthen multilateralism, and to give a stronger voice to Africa in key international processes. Our advocacy and support also has a strong focus on human rights.
Ireland shares a conviction with the African Union that we work best to solve global problems when we work together, and supports the work of the African Union to achieve inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.
Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025
Building on Ireland’s longstanding engagement with Africa, and as part of the Government’s Global Ireland initiative, a Government of Ireland Africa Strategy was launched in November 2019. As committed, Ireland has expanded its presence in Africa, with two new Embassies opening in Morocco and Senegal. In parallel, we have deepened our existing strong relationships across the continent.
As envisaged by the Strategy, Ireland has strengthened political partnerships with African countries and institutions, trade and investment has grown, and we are supporting innovation in Irish-African private sector collaboration. The number of postgraduate students from Africa on the Africa Ireland Fellows programme continues to increase. Ireland is also building new opportunities for stronger cultural connections, as evidenced by our becoming Associate Observers at the Community of Portuguese Language Countries in 2021, a majority of whose members are African.
The Strategy emphasises the importance of Ireland’s European Union membership in strengthening relations with African countries, and per our commitment, Ireland has been working more closely with EU and African partners to build a more ambitious and effective EU-Africa partnership. Ireland has also deepened engagement with African partners through multilateral institutions, such as the African Union and the United Nations. Ireland also fully supports regional integration, as being a member of the EU has been key for Ireland’s own development.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin, meeting with Ugandan Vice-President Jessica Alupo at UNGA 77 High Level Week ©DFA/PMUN
Ireland’s Development Cooperation with Africa
Young girl at a school for hearing-impaired children in Sierra Leone that is supported by Irish Aid
For almost fifty years, Ireland has worked to build a more just, secure and sustainable world through the Government’s international development programme, with a strong focus on sub-Saharan Africa, and through our humanitarian assistance. The prominent role of Irish civil society development organisations, missionaries and volunteer organisations in our development cooperation firmly roots our work in the spirit of Irish solidarity.
Despite significant progress in the last number of decades, Africa faces a changing set of geopolitical, social, environmental, economic and technological challenges that will require new solutions and increased resources. Ireland’s international development policy, 'A Better World', outlines how Ireland will continue to contribute to resolving the key development challenges facing the world in the coming decades, with a focus on climate action, gender equality, strengthened governance and reducing humanitarian need.
Ireland’s Africa Strategy gives a renewed impetus to our work in supporting sustainable economic growth, and boosting trade and investment ties with Africa. Institutional exchanges and innovative partnerships with Irish State Agencies and private sector organisations are also becoming an increasingly important way to maximise the impact of our development cooperation.
Trade and Investment
Two-way trade in goods and services between Ireland and Africa has increased by over €2 billion since 2017, with trade in goods in 2021 at a record level of €2.42 billion and trade in services also at an all time high of just over €4 billion. The Department of Foreign Affairs works closely with Ireland’s State Agencies, in a whole of Government approach, to increase trade and investment between Ireland and Africa.
The Africa Ireland Economic Forum (AIEF) is a key element of Ireland’s Strategy for Africa to 2025, which aims to bring business and political leaders together with public and private sector stakeholders from across Ireland and the continent of Africa. The 7th AIEF took place in Dublin in June 2022, attended by over 400 people. AIEF 2022 saw moderated panel discussions take a detailed look at topics including regional trade, green growth in the agriculture, food and energy sectors, women’s economic empowerment, and how technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are being leveraged for Africa’s growth.
Ireland works closely with partner countries in Africa to promote inclusive economic growth and trade. The Government’s Africa Strategy commits to increasing Ireland’s support for innovation by funding Irish-African private sector collaboration, including through expansion of the Africa Agri-Food Development Programme, the piloting of a new Tech Challenge Fund, and exploring investment in areas such as female entrepreneurship and climate innovation. Ireland will also bolster partnerships and exchanges on harnessing the potential of the blue economy in a sustainable and inclusive way.
Education has been central to Ireland’s success and has always been a strong focus in our cooperation with African partners. Over the last 46 years, approximately 2,000 Fellows from our partner countries have shared Ireland’s education success story, most of these from Africa. Ireland has committed to doubling the current number of Fellowships for students from Africa to an annual intake of 150 by 2025. In 2020-2021 the Programme expanded to award Fellowships to candidates from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), one of a number of commitments in the Government’s strategy for partnership with SIDS.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, speaking at the Africa Ireland Economic Forum 2022
Peace and Security
Tánaiste Micheál Martin speaking at UNGA77 High-Level Debate on the Sahel ©DFA/UN Photo
As a small island with a recent experience of conflict, Ireland is firmly committed to a just and peaceful rules-based international order.
Ireland has made a significant contribution to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and peacekeeping in Africa, where Irish Defence Forces have served with distinction as UN peacekeepers since the first deployment to the Congo in 1960. Today Ireland is Europe’s largest per capita contributor of troops to UN Peacekeeping operations, and Irish Defence Forces are currently deployed to a number of UN and EU crisis management and peace support operations across Africa.
Ireland also works through its Embassy network, through the EU and through the UN to promote peace, stability and reconciliation. We support inclusive peacebuilding processes that are locally-owned and nationally-led. Ireland recognises the importance of empowering women and youth in peace processes, and sees the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, which has strong roots in Africa, as an integral component of the conflict prevention and resolution framework.
Many of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises are in Africa. Ireland’s international development policy, A Better World, recognises that conflict and fragility are the major drivers of humanitarian need and a coherent approach to conflict and fragility runs throughout the policy. Ireland is also a strong supporter of a dynamic, independent and diverse civil society, which is indispensable to a peaceful and democratic society.
People-to-people connections between Ireland and Africa go back centuries, including missionaries, educators, health and development workers, humanitarian responders and Irish peacekeepers, all making a lasting contribution to Africa. Ireland’s strong political relationships with African countries build on these extensive and vibrant people-to-people ties.
The Irish community in Africa adds a unique dimension to our relations with the continent. It ranges from over 30,000 Irish citizens in South Africa to a smaller presence in other parts of the continent. Our wider Irish family includes those who have studied or worked in Ireland, and people with personal, cultural and economic associations to Ireland.
A significant part of the vibrant ties between Ireland and the diverse African continent today are the African communities in Ireland, who make an important contribution to Irish society and to the business, trade, cultural and educational links between Ireland and Africa. That contribution is marked across the country every year on Africa Day, when local authorities host a programme of community-based events celebrating the culture, food, music, and fashion of African residents.
EU and Africa
The prosperity and security of Europe and Africa are closely intertwined, and Ireland’s membership of the European Union is an important element of our engagement with Africa. Ireland strongly supports an ambitious political partnership between the EU and Africa.
The EU is Africa’s largest trade, investment and development cooperation partner. Through the Africa-EU Partnership, the EU and the African continents work together to strengthen economic cooperation and promote sustainable development. Common interests include areas such as trade, climate change, global security, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The most recent EU-AU Summit took place in Brussels, in February 2022, with the participation of 27 EU and 40 African Heads of State and Government. Heads of State and Government participated in roundtable discussions and then-Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, co-chaired a Roundtable on Agriculture and Sustainable Development, giving Ireland an opportunity to highlight our strategic leadership on food systems and nutrition at an EU, African, and global level.
A notable outcome of the Summit was the announcement of an ambitious Africa-Europe Investment Package, amounting to €150 billion up to 2030, as part of the EU’s Global Gateway Strategy. The Investment Package will serve as a framework for how the EU and Member states build more resilient connections with African partners. The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation instrument – Global Europe (NDICI-GE) was adopted in June 2021, It merges several former EU external financing instruments and aims to support countries most in need to overcome long-term developmental challenges.
Ireland also proactively engages on African issues and the EU-African partnership in Brussels, Ireland works closely with EU Delegations and with other EU Member States across Africa to promote our shared interests and values, and to strengthen our relations with African partners. Irish Defence Forces personnel and civilians participate in EU training and capacity building missions in Mali and Somalia.