Making Trade Work for Development

12/08/2010 at 1:48 pm 3 comments

Minister Micheál Martin’s recent trip to Ethiopia and Uganda has clearly been a success: since his return the Minister has been advocating greater involvement by Ireland in Africa. He wants to see greater investment by Irish companies in African countries, and he wants to publish a separate “Africa Strategy” to complement the work of Irish Aid.

The Irish Times reported on his trip, based on a longer interview in the Sunday Business Post:

“As a first step, I intend to instruct our missions in Africa to give greater priority to promoting economic and business links with Ireland,” the Minister said. He added that while this was being done already in a number of countries, he believed more could be achieved. The Minister also said he would be seeking to develop alumni networks of Africa-based professionals who were educated in Ireland, while Irish Aid would be asked to support a business promotion event in Dublin that has been proposed by African ambassadors who are resident here.

On a State visit to Ethiopia last month, the Minister said Irish companies could no longer afford to ignore business opportunities in Africa and that the development of trade links would benefit Irish businesses and Africans alike.

Ireland needs to see Africa as an investment, not a charity case

Crucially, the Minister is not arguing for tied aid: He is adamant we should not use aid money to benefit Irish companies. In other words, the aid programmes will not be linked to commercial contracts, as, according to the Minister – and we would wholeheartedly agree – “this is not ethical from our perspective”.

What Minister Martin wants to see happening, is that Ireland wakes up to the potential of the African continent, and stops thinking of Africa as only a basket case destination of Irish aid money. – Exactly what Dóchas has been saying should happen (just read this letter and this blog post, not to mention our work on combating stereotypes of Africa).

Africa Works

Minister Martin rightly points to the fact that Africa’s economies are growing at ever increasing rates and that “the African continent will have the largest workforce in the world by 2040.” In his view, Ireland’s overseas aid programme should remain focused on poverty eradication, but the new Africa strategy should facilitate economic growth, which ultimately could remove the need for aid.

Apart from his trip and the reported visits to Irish companies in Uganda and Ethiopia, it is possible that the Minister got his inspiration from a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, “Lions On The Move”, that argues that global businesses cannot afford to ignore Africa’s economic growth, and its future potential.

From 2000 to 2008, the continent’s economy grew about 5 percent per year – more than twice the pace of the previous two decades. The telecom, banking, and retail sectors are humming as more Africans move to cities. Foreign capital investments have surged, from $15 billion in 2000 to $87 billion seven years later. Africans spent more in 2008 than Indians – with roughly the same population, 1 billion in Africa, 1.2 billion in India. And the number of Africans who have signed up for cellphone service in the last decade surpasses the population of the United States.

In short, the Minister is absolutely right in calling for a more explicit, and more proactive, engagement by Ireland in all things “Africa”. It is high time that we move beyond “Aid” as our main interaction with African nations, and that we engage in “Cooperation” proper: cooperation between equal partners, towards shared objectives.

Building the necessary infrastructure

The Minister’s idea to start with a “business-to-business event” is a good one. But if we want to make genuine progress towards greater private sector engagement in Africa, we need to ensure that the support infrastructure is there.

  • It is not enough to simply inform Irish businesses of the trade opportunities that exist. The State’s massive apparatus for attracting businesses into Ireland must be matched by a similar support infrastructure for companies that want to bring African produce onto the Irish market. This is a job for the Department of Trade and bodies such as Enterprise Ireland, and a (to be created) sister agency of the IDA – it certainly is NOT the responsibility of Irish Aid.
  • Secondly, the Government should go beyond merely supporting trade with Africa. It should actively ensure that Irish trade with the continent doesn’t do more harm than good. Government support should depend on guidelines for ethical business practices, including core labour standards, and environmental and social concerns. It need not be Fair Trade, but it should not be exploitative either. In addition, the Government should provide active support to companies  that are making a genuine effort to adhere to these ethical standards.
  • Thirdly, the Government should fund an awareness-raising drive among Irish companies, about the important contribution they can make towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Companies should be encouraged to detail their developmental impact, and to enter into their own “MDG Compact”: a pledge in which they state what role they see for themselves in furthering the Millennium Development Goals.  (not so much along the charitable lines of the Davos example, but more along the Dutch Schokland Agreement example)
  • It may seem obvious,  but it’s important to ensure that Irish trade policy does not undermine the Irish aid programme.

Another condition: keeping our promise

And finally, the Government should honour its aid promise. Our aid programme is making real and tangible differences in the lives of poor people, and our commitment to human development generates good-will across the globe. If we show that we are a country that can be relied on, and that keeps its promises, we will greatly enhance the prospects of Irish businesses abroad.

Our strategy to combat the recession is based on the need to repair the damage to our international reputation that has arisen out of the banking crisis. We now need to demonstrate that we are a country capable of keeping its promises, and willing to play its full role in the global society of states. Through the aid programme, we are given a chance to do just that.

Gaining momentum

No doubt, the Minister has started a valuable discussion. Hopefully these blog thoughts will encourage him, and all of us, further down this path.

Entry filed under: Government, MDGs, Overseas aid. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

How you can help people back from the brink Does Aid Work? – Absolutely!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pevo uganda  |  12/08/2010 at 3:43 pm

    We are impressed with your activities in your organisation.
    For SUPPORT TO NEEDY WOMEN, ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN is an organisation found in Pallisa district in Uganda East Africa.
    It has a number of activities such as;
    -supporting women with agricultural tools.
    -educating the orphans and vulnerable children.
    -providing of farm animals to the needy women.
    -provision of safe water and nuitrition to both vulnerable groups.
    -provision of proper sanitation to vulnerable groups.

    Reply
  • 2. pevo uganda  |  12/08/2010 at 3:44 pm

    Good work done.

    Reply
  • 3. Conall O'Caoimh  |  10/11/2010 at 11:16 am

    Irish imports from its priority aid countries in Africa have been falling continually for 15 years. Our aid to these countries is not maturing into an equal trade relationship. Active steps are needed to support African companies in selling their products into Ireland.

    And the benefit (in terms of reducing poverty) from such supports is far greater when the products that are supported are processed goods.

    We have been conducting searches in a number of Africa countries and have found really top quality goods being made in Africa that can attain the Irish and other export markets with just a little marketing support.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 182 other followers

Archives

Dóchas on Twitter

The World's Best News - images

Ever heard of the “#Potato Centre of Excellence”? From today’s Irish Times: "The Potato Centre of Excellence … acts as the driver for the Irish Potato Coalition, an initiative involving Irish and international NGOs working to share knowledge across six countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya – that account for four million potato farmers. Their aim is to maximise the benefit that potatoes can provide to rural communities by connecting farmers, researchers, the private sector and local organisations." Read more at http://www.irishtimes.com/business/potatoes-are-nuggets-to-save-ethiopia-as-ireland-shares-years-of-expertise-1.1927105 
Photo: Gebremedhin Woldegiorgis, senior potato researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Denis Griffen, potato breeder at Teagas, inspect potato plants at the Teagasc Research Centre in Oakpark, Carlow. photograph: dylan vaughan Is Mulitani the happiest mother in Malawi? 
Read her story and find out why at https://charitywater.exposure.co/mulitani 
Photo: @estherhavens 44-year-old Thauzeni Theka is a member of a small-scale irrigation group that's been supported by Self Help Africa in Mkhonde village, Malawi.

He's been growing tomatoes and cabbage since 2010, and has used the money he has earned to buy two bicycles (inset), four goats, and new tin sheets to re-roof his house. 
Thauzeni says he is also sending all of his kids to school with the money he is earning on the project. 
#Malawi #agriculture #tomatoes Vanilla from the DRC.

Indonesia and Madagascar are the world's largest producers. But farmers in Eastern Congo are now also exporting it.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, because growing the vanilla seed pods is labour-intensive. Six kilos of the green pods, for which the farmers receive some €44, results in about 1 kilo of brown pods which, once milled, packed and shipped, sells for some €75 per kilo to companies that use the spice.

Photo: workers processing the vanilla pod harvest.

#vanilla #congo #drc #africa #worldsbestnews #trade #spices In #Somalia, school meals are helping more girls continue in school, including these at the Abdirahman Godyare primary #school.

Girls have often been expected to stay home and help with chores, but the daily meals encourage families to continue sending them to class. (Photo: WFP/Laila Ali, 21 October 2013) Bike riders in the campaign against Ebola.

Commercial motorbike riders have started an intensive face-to-face awareness raising campaign that seeks to reach between 150,000 and 200,000 people over a two month period in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 
Read more at http://www.sl.undp.org/content/sierraleone/en/home/presscenter/articles/2014/09/08/undp-engages-bike-riders-and-vulnerable-groups-on-ebola/

#sierraleone #africa #ebola #motorbikes #awareness #UNDP #Dublin #Cork #ireland #worldsbestnews #positiveireland #getready "Mozambikes" fights poverty through BIKES and affordable transport.

50% of Mozambicans live below the poverty line. For them, going to school, work or the market means walking great distances. 
To make good bicycles available to poor people, and to help combat congestion in Mozambique’s major cities, the people behind Mozambikes started producing sturdy, green bicycles. 
Read more at http://www.mozambikes.com/en/benefits 
#mocambique #manufacturing #upliftingnews #worldsbestnews #cycling #benefits #poverty #transport #health #education #globaldev #commute Do you want to catch up with some of the many stories we have published on The World's Best News?

You will find many of our back catalogue stories grouped on Instagram:

Stories from AFRICA: http://bit.ly/1xq8cwy

Stories from LATIN AMERICA: http://bit.ly/1rRnzfh 
Stories about the work of Irish NGOs: http://bit.ly/WqxF7R 
Stories about work in the area of HEALTH, WATER and SANITATION: http://bit.ly/1qw2C6Y 
Stories about work in the area of AGRICULTURE and FOOD: http://bit.ly/WvqFqC 
Also, you can always do a search for #worldsbestnews

Visitors Map

Map

Dóchas Photos

undermining 0.7

tanaiste

More Photos

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 182 other followers

%d bloggers like this: