Mar 16 , 2022

As the 17th of March (Gregorian calendar) approaches, many will recognise this date as the feast day of St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. Paddy’s Day, as it’s commonly known, is celebrated all over the world with colourful parades, shows of Irish culture, music and dance. In Ethiopia, it offers an opportunity to reflect on longstanding links with Ireland - a small but vibrant island on the edge of Europe.

Ireland has long had a reputation as a strong development partner of Ethiopia, known for its contributions to the agricultural, health and social protection systems that have helped to improve the lives of millions of Ethiopians. Over the past 5 years alone Ireland has invested more than €180m in bilateral development cooperation benefitting people all over the country. Cooperation on important areas such as education (e.g. more than 200 Ethiopians have studied in Ireland through a scholarship programme run by the Irish Embassy) and public service delivery will continue to be at the centre of Irish-Ethio relations. But with Ethiopia now looking towards its own home-grown economic reforms to stimulate growth driven by the private sector, there are also valuable lessons to learn from Ireland’s growth experience.

Once one of the poorest countries in Europe when it first gained independence in the early 20th century, ultimately it was Ireland’s own reforms that helped it grow to become one of the most prosperous countries in the EU. While it experienced its fair share of economic crises, two consistent policies, in particular, helped it along its growth path.

First, regional economic integration in a ‘single European market’. Ireland joined the European Economic Community (the precursor to the EU) in 1973. Since then it gradually integrated value chains and economic ties with its neighbours by reducing barriers to trade and harmonising policies, while also receiving significant development support. Second, huge investment in human capital produced a highly educated young population ready to work in export-oriented industries. While many other factors contributed, this approach made Ireland an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment and planted the seeds of a successful, outward-looking economy. Ireland is now home to a significant services sector: for example, most Ethiopian Airlines planes are leased from Ireland. Ireland’s tech sector has also grown in recent years, with numerous startups and large tech firms based in Dublin, and some even working on fintech with banks here in Addis.

Regional economic integration and education are also pillars of Ethiopia’s reform process that have the potential to drive inclusive growth. As Ethiopia charters its own unique development path, Ireland’s experience can continue to offer valuable insights. As a longstanding partner and friend, Ireland, both bilaterally and as a member of the EU, will also continue to work to support Ethiopia’s aspirations.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1142]

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