The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is leading a week-long trade mission to West Africa.

Speaking before his departure, Minister Coveney said it will provide a key foundation on which to build strong economic links with West Africa and with Nigeria and Ghana in particular.

“The region has a strong demand for imports of quality food, given the size of its population and Ireland is strategically placed to be a key supplier of quality dairy and meat products, but also high end services in the field of education, finance, engineering, construction and technology,” he said.

Involving more than 40 Irish companies, as well as senior delegates from Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland, the mission will take in visits to Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria, and Accra in Ghana. The Trade Mission will cover three major cities in two countries in five days with over forty key engagements.

Expanding economies in West Africa provide fertile ground for Irish companies in the agri food sector wishing to expand their global footprint, and also in fields such as education, training, geoscience and engineering, financial services and technology.

With combined populations of over 200m, Nigeria and Ghana are experiencing healthy economic growth at present.

CEO of Bord Bia Aidan Cotter said that africa represents a growing opportunity for Irish food and drink exporters with its population set to double to 2.5 billion people over the next three and half decades.

“Ireland’s more than billion euro export trade with Africa is dominated by dairy products and with the sector set for sustained expansion, the region is assuming major importance as a key target region.”

“As part of the Trade Mission, Bord Bia’s Dairy Seminar taking place in Lagos on Tuesday will focus on highlighting Ireland’s sustainable dairy food production and will be attended by leading players from Nigeria’s dairy industry” Cotter added.

Overall, bilateral trade with Nigeria was worth half a billion euro in 2014 (exports €339m), with Guinness extract the single largest export.

Minister Coveney’s visit will also involve key events for the Irish dairy and meat sectors, and will include bilateral meetings with his Ministerial counterparts in both Nigeria and Ghana.

The Minister will also meet with World Food Programme Officials in Ghana, and visit a number of aid projects funded by that organisation, which receives approximately €8m aid from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland’s overseas development effort.