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MOS O’Sullivan speech at Institute of international European Affairs

Aid Effectiveness, Speeches, Global, 2011

Chairperson, Members and friends of the Institute, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming along today to attend this event, which is the first in a series of lectures on the theme of development being presented by the Institute in partnership with the Government’s official development cooperation programme, Irish Aid.

It is a great pleasure and honour for me as Minister with responsibility for Trade and Development to introduce the series and today’s distinguished speaker, Professor Mthuli Ncube.

I would like at the outset to express my strong appreciation and support for the important work of the Institute in highlighting and promoting debate on international and global issues, and how they matter for us as a society.  It is more clear now than ever that every aspect of our social, cultural and economic existence is inextricably linked to trends and events in the wider world.  It is vitally important for our society that we engage with global issues and trends;   that our academic institutions, media, businesses and the public benefit from increased knowledge, understanding, analysis and research in international affairs.  So I urge the Institute to keep up the good work, and I urge all of you to continue connecting with these debates and these events.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a long-established relationship with the Institute, but the lecture series that is being inaugurated today is a new departure, though by no means a strange or surprising one.  The focus of the work of this Institute has been increasingly global and holistic in geographical and thematic terms, recognising, for example, the growing significance of the emerging economies, the so-called BRICS, and of emerging themes such as economic interdependence, energy security, the digital future and climate change.  Against this background, focusing attention on development, and especially on Africa, is appropriate and timely.

I say this is a timely series for a number of reasons.  We are at a moment when some of the fundamental assumptions accepted for decades are being re-evaluated.  In the last three years alone, there has been a sea-change in the way we understand how economies work and the relationships between politics, economics and society.  Similar change is taking place in our understanding of development theories and experiences in many parts of the developing world.

I and my colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have decided to try to respond to these changes in a very direct and practical way.  One important step has been the launching of the Review of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid which has served as the policy roadmap for the development programme over recent years.  This exercise will involve extensive consultations with our partners, with civil society and with the public.  It will take a fresh look at our work and help clarify if we are doing the right things in the right way, or how we might need to change.  I hope this exercise will stimulate discussion and result in a very clear set of priorities for Ireland’s development programme, and development policies for the crucial years ahead. It is also relevant today, given Dr. Ncube’s background and the theme he will be addressing in particular, to say a little about the new Africa Strategy for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which was launched by the Tánaiste at the Africa Ireland Economic Forum in September.

The Africa Strategy recognises the transformation that is taking place in Africa and states our commitment to build on and strengthen our bonds of friendship in a way that reflects the new realities of Africa and its people. In particular, we are saying that it is time now to lay the groundwork for the development of a strong economic relationship in the years to come, while maintaining the focus of our aid programme on the poorest countries and communities in sub-Saharan Africa. 

For many years, the conventional wisdom was that Africa was a continent doomed to autocracy, inequality and grinding underdevelopment.  But one thing we have learned in our lifetimes is that no country or region is immune to political, economic and social change, and that the effects of that change in one region can have major implications for others.  So also with Africa, where we have seen the dramatic upheavals of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and where we have seen democracy and respect for the rule of law and human rights take root in less dramatic ways in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa.  Africa is increasingly seen as a continent rich in young people, mineral wealth and economic potential and reports such as McKinsey Global’s ‘Lions on the Move’ document provide impressive statistics and evidence to demonstrate the sheer scale of the potential of Africa’s society and economy.

Africa, of course, is a vast and diverse continent, made up of 54 countries and the ‘big picture’ is a very complex one, with a mixture of positive and negative developments and trends.

Larger African economies, such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, have averaged growth rates consistently above 5% since the year 2000.  Some countries, including Angola and Sierra Leone, have been growing at more than 10% in recent years.  However, at the same time, we recognise that poverty and hunger will continue to be huge problems both in their own right and as obstacles to sustainable and inclusive growth in many parts of Africa. 

The Government and my Department will continue to focus international attention on these problems.  Irish Aid’s priority focus will continue to be on poverty and on the systemic global hunger crisis, and especially its manifestation in sub-Saharan Africa, as so graphically illustrated by the continuing crisis in the Horn of Africa. 

Our long term aim is to end dependency on aid, to build a new relationship with Africa based on politics, democracy and trade. 

It is right that we do so, and it is also in our interests as a country.  Ireland is one of the most open economies in the world.  Our future lies in our capacity to trade: to sell goods and services, in the global economy.  To do so, we must expand our horizons beyond our traditional export markets.

This is the context and the background to the Africa Strategy, which is titled ‘Ireland and Africa: Our partnership with a changing continent’.   The document updates our analysis of trends and developments across Africa and the way in which Africa relates to the wider world.

It deals with our political relations.  It recognises the remarkable economic growth in many African countries, but also highlights that the pace and extent of development is not uniform, that some countries and communities are benefiting less than others, and that many people are being left behind.  It recognises that there is significant potential in the future for strengthened economic links between Ireland and Africa.  Just next week, I will lead a trade mission to South Africa with Enterprise Ireland and a large number of Irish companies in what represents another very concrete demonstration of our commitment to expanding two-way economic links with that country and the wider region.

Ladies and gentlemen, a strong theme of the Strategy is that we should have greater engagement between Irish policymakers, academics and businesspeople and African counterparts.  The Strategy notes the important role of the African Development Bank and how much we can benefit form that Institution’s expertise and knowledge. 

It is therefore a particular pleasure for me to welcome Professor Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice President  of the African Development Bank here today to deliver the inaugural lecture in the ‘Development Matters’ series.  He will speak on the very relevant and topical theme of ‘African Economic Policy and the Role of Private Business’.  I particularly look forward to hearing Professor Ncube’s views on the challenges for African policymakers of ensuring that overall economic growth reduces poverty and hunger and supports inclusive development.  I also very much look forward to our subsequent discussion on the basis of his lecture.

It is an honour for me to introduce Professor Ncube.
Thank you.

Prof. Mthuli Ncube

Prof. Mthuli Ncube is Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank. He has extensive experience as an investment banker and a regulator, and served as a Board member of the South African Financial Services Board. Prior to this, he was Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, and Dean and Professor of Finance at Wits Business School. Prof. Ncube holds a PhD in Mathematical Finance from Cambridge University.

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