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The European Commission last week outlined its plans for the creation of a new closer relationship with the continent of Africa, stating their aim to establish an EU-Africa Free Trade Agreement.

The EU already has trade agreements, arrangements and schemes with 52 African countries, providing a varying degree of access to those markets for EU products and investment. However, with predictions that Africa will overtake China as the “economic growth engine of the world” and with its steadily growing population, set to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, the Commission wish to boost EU strategic investment further.

Already this summer a “Task Force on Rural Africa” was established within the Commission to provide expertise, advice and recommendations on the role of the EU agri-food sector in the continent’s sustainable economic development. During his annual State of the Union speech on Sept 12, Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that this would help to develop a “new Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa” with the goal of then establishing “a continent-to-continent free trade accord”.

These plans were further elaborated on at a press conference on September 14, where it was stressed that the EU will prioritise supporting negotiations to form an African free trade area as well as supporting EU-Africa and intra-Africa trade.

Irish dairy exports to Africa were worth €135 million in 2016. It is a quickly growing market, having jumped 22% in value from 2015. Exports largely consist of enriched milk powders, going to West Africa and cheddar and butter to Algeria and Morocco. It therefore has the potential to be a key growth market in future.

By Alison Graham

European Affairs Executive