On 27 June 2013, I attended a two day seminar in Dublin entitled Africa’s Development Future: land, hope and hunger. The event was organised by AWEPA, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa. It sought to promote a dialogue on the roles, responsibilities and efforts of both European and African parliamentarians in developing policies relevant to Africa’s development future concerning land ownership, water scarcity and chronic hunger. In the context of my participation in a panel discussion at the seminar, I emphasized the Government’s commitment to reducing hunger and referenced the conclusions of the Dublin Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice, which was held in April. I stressed the importance of the participation of smallholder farmers in policy discussions on agriculture, the need for a better appreciation of the links between HIV-AIDS and food security and the importance of ensuring the equitable use of domestic resources in responding to the problem of hunger and malnutrition.
I emphasized that in order that economic growth can support efforts to reduce poverty and hunger, it must be complemented with strong political leadership and sound policies. Such policies could include the introduction of appropriate social protection programmes, support to universal access to essential services, support to multi-sectoral initiatives to address malnutrition, such as the Scaling-Up Nutrition movement, support to smallholder agriculture, industrial policies which promote value addition and support decent jobs; and the development of fair and efficient tax systems.
Finally I referenced One World, One Future, Ireland’s new Policy on International Development, which commits the Government to deepening efforts to help developing countries improve their business and investment environment, and to support their ability to trade. Ireland has a long history of trade with Africa and it is now an important market, particularly for the Irish food and drink industry. In 2011 exports of food and drink from Ireland to Africa grew by 26% to €500 million.
The most direct influence of trade on poverty reduction is through employment. It is not possible to provide the Deputy with precise statistical data on the number of persons on the entire African continent that are employed by Irish companies. Such data is not readily available from any reliable source or combination of sources, and Irish companies may choose not to report all details of their business transactions, where there may be commercial sensitivities involved.
However, we do know from our ongoing contacts with the private sector, State Agencies and other relevant stakeholders, that Irish companies employ approximately 13,000 people in South Africa and over 15,000 people in West Africa, and that Irish business engagement in Africa is growing and generating employment. For the past two years, my Department has organised an annual Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin and we will do so again in 2013. We expect some 200 Irish business representatives to attend the event form a broad range of sectors, including energy, construction, health care, education services, information technology, communications and financial services.