By Ian Callagy
The Irish government, last week, launched an Agri-Food fund for Africa. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore TD said of the initiative: “Business opportunities are opening as African countries build trade links with each other and with world markets. Irish companies are well-placed to play a role in meeting Africa’s increasing food needs.”
The Irish Aid organisation is supporting the creation of greater trade links between Ireland and African nations. A pilot project over the next two years will concentrate on Tanzania and Kenya, initially. Africa, as a continent, can now stand alongside Brazil and Russia, in terms of GDP. “Through my Department’s Africa Strategy, our long term aim is to end dependency on aid and to build a new relationship with Africa based on politics, democracy and trade”, Mr Gilmore said.
Also present at the launch were the Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello TD and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney TD. Mr Costello spoke of his recent visit to Malawi and praised Irish Aid for helping “to protect 4.6 million people from hunger over the last six years”. He added that “Partnerships with the private sector were critical to this success.”
It was announced, at the launch, that €2 million is to be set aside for the Agri-Food Fund. Money for this will come from the budgets of two government Departments: Foreign Affairs and Agriculture. The Fund aims to help agriculture in Africa. “I’m very aware of the philanthropic goodwill of the Irish agri-food sector and I will be asking them to actively consider what role they might play in the implementation of this Fund”, Mr Coveney stated.
The Irish government’s policies, it is hoped, can improve agriculture in African countries affected negatively by climate, among other factors. Measures at dealing with drought conditions and pestilence, which destroys crops, must be supported. “This innovative pilot programme to support Africa to build an Agri-Food sector has the potential to greatly complement the work that Irish Aid is doing in many of our partner countries in increasing agricultural productivity”, Mr Costello said.