Middle East Aviation: Ready to soar once again in the post-pandemic future

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit few sectors harder than the aviation industry, with severe restrictions on travel and closed borders resulting in a dramatic decline in passenger volumes globally. Airports around the world have had their resilience tested to the limit as they faced the initial paralysis of the skies, followed by the ongoing waves of the pandemic. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon driven by the rollout of the global vaccination programme in the majority of countries, albeit at different levels of implementation.

 

Predicted growth

Despite the significantly curtailed demand globally and regionally due to Covid-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the Middle East will see a 4.4 percent growth in passenger journeys over the period through to 2039. “With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) home to some of the most advanced airports in the world and often exceling in passenger service, they are on the front foot to ensure restored confidence in flying once again,” said Alan O’ Mahony, Market Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland.

“Airport operators and airlines are monitoring the situation closely and continue to adapt to the evolving situation. They are now faced with the challenge of balancing additional health and safety requirements with providing a good passenger experience as they seek to restore confidence in air travel. Innovation and technology across the Middle East will play a key role in unlocking improvements for passenger experience and safety whilst also igniting the recovery for the sector. Ireland has forged a strong reputation for delivering world-leading innovative solutions that are used every day by the largest airlines in the world and across the wider aviation sector. We need this innovation now more than ever to power the industry’s recovery and Irish companies will continue to shape this new age for air travel.”

Pandemic-era air travel

Technology has advanced swiftly over the course of the pandemic in reaction to the ever-changing environment, and a new focus on health considerations in technology and process transformation has emerged.

“One trend that will become more widespread is the adoption of contactless technology in order to minimise the spread of viruses and reduce interaction between staff and passengers throughout the entire journey,” explained Alan. “A good case in point is Irish company IO Systems which operates the automated baggage return tray systems in Dubai International Airport. The company has adapted its latest models to include blue light cleansing technology to ensure their trays are actively cleaned as they automatically return through the baggage system. Airports can ensure additional safety measures are applied whilst still ensuring a good passenger experience is delivered through the introduction of these type of innovative solutions.”

 

Taking flight

“The hot topic in the industry right now is the digital health certification to capture the completed vaccination process or Covid-19 status of people intending to fly,” said Alan. “Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon is leading the way by creating the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport to help those eligible to travel to navigate the changing entry requirements associated with Covid-19. The company’s new VeriFLY app, which has already been adopted by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements of their destination.”

VeriFLY provides digital health document verification, confirms eligibility, and allows people to combine necessary travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, in one place, allowing travellers to ensure they are fully compliant with all the departure and arrival requirements before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks are available for check in.

“The ingenuity, ambition, and adaptability that Daon and their partners have demonstrated throughout the pandemic are making a significant contribution to restoring traveller confidence and ensuring a positive passenger experience. It’s just one example of how innovation from Ireland, one of the major travel tech hubs in the world, is playing a leading role in the recovery for the sector.”

 

Advanced technologies

Responses to Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across almost all sectors, and it’s thought that many of these changes will have a lasting impact. “With the global smart airports market to top $22.6 billion (USD) by 2025, the requirement for advanced technologies – especially as part of the immediate recovery – will continue to be an important market for the vast array of Irish companies operating in the sector. We are likely to see new entrants into the airport space across technologies such as biometrics, robotics, cloud technologies and IoT.”

“There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the air travel industry and the recovery for the industry is still some distance away. With that said, recent trends offer reasons for cautious optimism. While it’s certain that air travel will never look the same again, these innovative solutions will help to ensure international airline travel is, once more, cleared for take-off.”

 

One Planet. One Health – Danone and GreenPlus

“The health of people and the planet are intertwined.  You can’t have one without the other”, states Mark Stafford, Nature and Sustainability Manager at Danone, Wexford.

Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible with high quality products contributing to all life stages. This is where sustainability and the environment comes in and it is one of the four key pillars at the company – they have now adopted ‘nature’ as a business fundamental for all supply points and sustainability roadmaps for their brands.

The company used Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus scheme to empower line management and teams to manage and improve energy performance at basic unit level and they have now achieved certification to the prestigious ISO 50001 International Energy Management Standard.  This standard aims to help organisations to continually reduce their energy use and therefore their energy costs and their greenhouse gas emissions.

Through their work with GreenPlus, the Energy Management System (EnMS) at Danone has now been implemented successfully across the site, system accreditation has taken place and a number of energy saving opportunities have been identified. This has enabled the company to implement solutions and their annual energy savings are now measured and verified.

So how was their journey with Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus and what were their main challenges? Peter Pearson, Nature Co-ordinator explains: “We started looking at the gaps and found the biggest gap was metering.  Data monitoring and reporting systems presented a challenge as the metering available on-site did not satisfy our requirements with regard to reporting detail and frequency”.

“Going down the ISO 50001 route focused our minds on the areas we needed to tackle. It raised awareness within the company.  It identified savings and improved our knowledge on the use of energy onsite.  We found the process easy to navigate and it was fairly straightforward. It was great to have the support of Enterprise Ireland and it was very helpful.”

Danone aims to become carbon zero across their value chain by 2050 and to do that all elements of the business need to become carbon neutral. “Our plant in Co. Wexford has become the first infant formula production site in the world to be certified as carbon neutral.”

“Our net zero carbon rating has been certified by the Carbon Trust, an independent global climate change and sustainability consultancy,”  said Stafford

Explaining the benefits across Danone of engaging with GreenPlus, he pointed out that “We needed buy in from management which we quickly achieved and it was also important to make all employees aware of where we needed to get to and our ambitions. We weren’t surprised that through the GreenPlus process we identified many opportunities – we knew they were there but just didn’t have visibility of them.  The process helped us to pinpoint exactly where we needed to make improvements”.

“As part of our roadmap for the project there was also a huge focus on energy reduction and efficiencies and implementation of the ISO 50001 was crucial to that journey”.

From a business perspective, Mark Stafford and Peter Pearson point out that consumers and customers are looking for sustainability more and more and all the research backs this up.  The expectation is there and that goes for all activities within a company.

“The feedback is that people want more sustainably produced products and environmentally friendly products.” 

“All employees are now aware of where we need to get to.  We have nature champions across our business units and they are now bringing in their own ideas in relation to sustainability and the environment for our brands.  There are a lot of projects now going on in the company. This includes our intention for all of our supply points and business units to be BCorp certified. We know where we are and where we need to get to and what we want to achieve.  We are very focused.”

 To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

Evolve UK Webinar – Pricing

This webinar,  in  conjunction with Simon-Kucher & Partners, examines the most important profit driver; Pricing. It will also discuss how professionally managing pricing can add millions to your bottom line.

Chaired by Deirdre McPartlin, Manager of Enterprise Ireland UK, with expert insights from Simon-Kucher & Partners, a leading global consultancy specialising in top-line growth strategies with 35 years of experience with monetization topics of all kinds – from pricing strategies, customer segmentation, user experience, offer design, and packaging, to negotiation techniques, and sales excellence.

    • Mark Billige – CEO

    • Peter Colman – Partner

    • Phil Derby – Business Partner, Ireland

     

    Changing Construction – How GreenStart has Powered Passive Sills

    Cork-based company Passive Sills was created with a vision of making changes in the construction industry

    The company could not be more timely in their mission as together building and construction are said to be responsible for a massive 39% of all carbon emissions in the world right now.  Passive Sills produces thermally efficient building products and offers environmentally friendly building materials and product options to the construction industry.

    Globally, leading cities and companies are committing to a highly efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050 but put simply – the Paris Agreement is demanding an even more ambitious built environment strategy than is currently there and for this to happen strong implementation is required.

    The European Commission has recognised the vital role that the built environment sector can play in delivering the requirements of the EU2050 long-term strategy to become climate-neutral.

    Passive Sills wanted to push forward on this with the help of Enterprise Ireland GreenStart funding and gain a clear picture of the environmental impact of manufacturing their products.

    “In the construction industry, everything is going towards zero carbon emissions.  It’s going to be a requirement in EU legislation anyway and taking into account the Paris agreement and what this country, the world and individual companies are doing to reduce emissions, it made sense for us to get on board as soon as possible”, explains spokesperson Janice O’Leary.

    “We want to spread the word and change the way people think when they are building. They have the option to move away from heavy concrete and go for lightweight more thermally efficient options.  New Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standards requirements are a reality now and people are making more informed choices as it’s all about future proofing.  Our products including our insulated window sills and oversills suit most types of construction projects, have a lower carbon footprint and are 64% more thermally efficient than concrete, reducing cold bridging. They also have almost half the embodied carbon of concrete alternatives.”

     

    Support from GreenStart

    So how did Enterprise Ireland GreenStart support Passive Sills?  The company had very clear goals – to carry out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of their products to understand clearly all the processes and materials that have an impact on the environment and to produce a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and a public Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which now sits proudly on their website. Passive Sills also wanted to produce an Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) for their custom manufacturing facility in Youghal.  In addition, they wanted to receive access and training for a new online reporting tool called Ecochain, to generate detailed reports for clients.

    “The Enterprise Ireland GreenStart grant helped us to nail all of this down. While we needed a lot of information for certain calculations and it did take time, we were able to calculate our carbon footprint and were pleasantly surprised with some of the results that we found. We have now also launched a new website – lightweightmouldings.ie – offering a full range of lightweight decorative mouldings and we’re expanding our product range.”

    “The GreenStart process made us think in a slightly different way.  All of this was something that we would have had to do in the future anyway – specifically we knew the requirement for an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) would be coming down the line – and Enterprise Ireland gave us a push to get it done now.”

    “We were more than happy with the process and what we achieved and we would highly recommend the process to other businesses.”

     

    To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

     

    How digital health companies can navigate and enter the NHS

    This Enterprise Ireland webinar examines how to successfully enter and scale digital health solutions in the UK market, drawing from the experience of our panel.  

    The webinar will outline the key challenges and opportunities for digital health companies entering the NHS from both a supplier and NHS procurement perspective. With expert insights from:

    –             Sonia Neary, CEO and Founder of Wellola

    –             Niall Rafferty, CEO and Founder Medxnote

    –             Dr Sam Shah – Chief Medical Strategy Officer at Numan & previous        Director of Digital Development for NHSX

    –             Andy Kinnear – Former CIO, NHS

     

    Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

    St Patrick’s Day offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase Irish business innovation to a US audience.

    The traditional meeting between the Taoiseach and US President is taking place virtually this year, leveraging our important ties and connectivity with our trans-Atlantic neighbour more than ever.  

    The USA remains the world’s largest consumer market, a $22 trillion dollar economy. It grew by 4% in Q4 last year and early projections for 2021 indicate further growth of 3.2%, a strong performance for a developed economy.

    Increasingly Irish companies succeed here by recognising that the USA is no more one market than Europe is, and that to penetrate it they must go in state by state. California’s economy is, after all, approximately the same size as that of the UK. New York’s is approximately the same size as South Korea.

     

    The Pandemic Pivot

    The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with unemployment currently at 6.9%, up from 3.5% prior to Covid, which was a 50-year low. Lockdowns vary by state but as a whole the US is a market where the pivot happened fast, and the return will too.

    One of the biggest trends we see is how major US multinationals, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are embracing the lessons learned. They have ‘leaned in’ to the opportunities that remote working, accelerated technology adoption and virtual collaboration have presented.

    Interestingly, this has also led to a level of economic migration and mobility not seen in generations as more and more people also take advantage of operating remotely and move to less dense population centres.

    The crossing of the digital Rubicon has also led to accelerated growth in sectors that were once described as emerging, these include ecommerce, cybersecurity, and digital health. There has also been a marked increase in the demand for content driven by the rapid growth in usage and choice across stream platforms. These relatively sudden supply and demand shifts always result in direct and tangential opportunities, and threats.

    As people live more online, those providing back end solutions, such as data management (provision and support products and services) and security, are seeing potential for robust growth.

     

    Building Back Better

    Further bolstering the optimism for strong 2021 GDP growth is the economic stimulus plan put forth by President Biden, further supplemented by significant planned investment in infrastructure and the green economy. At time of writing the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan has moved back to the US House of Representatives for final ratification, this is expected to provide significant economic stimulus across the US.

    Other sectors are of course challenged. International student numbers from the US to Ireland have fallen for obvious reasons. Consumer retail, for those that have not embraced ecommerce, is struggling, and other sectors that have historically relied on a tactile or physical element to the sales process, e.g. machinery, will naturally struggle more in a virtual environment.

    A big question affecting businesses, and unknown in terms of our ‘new normal’, is what airline travel will look like. Capacity is certainly not what it was pre-Covid and there are complex variables that impact this supply and demand dynamic, not least of which are staff and equipment availability. Thankfully we continue to be relatively well served on the trans-Atlantic route.

    Over the past 12 months Enterprise Ireland has also leaned in to supporting our clients to stabilise, reset and recover. Supports such as the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, Online Retail Scheme, Virtual Selling programme, Competitive Start, our many management training programmes and others have enabled companies not just to cope with the challenges of selling into the US and globally, but to compete for and capture the opportunities that now exist in our new normal.

     

    Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

    Enterprise Ireland is walking this walk too in our traditional St Patricks Day events, having taken the traditional week-long programme of events for St Patrick’s Day and working with our Team Ireland colleagues migrating it online. Where Team Ireland would normally have the Taoiseach, Ministers, and a programme of economic, political, social and cultural events from coast to coast and border to border, we have pivoted entirely and will instead be hosting a multi-faceted programme including a series of in-depth sectoral webinars.

    We are running high profile mainstream media and social campaigns this week too, to maximise the impact of St Patrick’s Day, raising the profile of Irish companies and of the Irish Advantage.

    None of us knows what the new normal will look like. We do know that it will not be a simple snapping back into the old ways. Over the past 12 months we have crossed the digital Rubicon. It is now up to all of us to embrace the digital opportunities on the other side. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right”. We can.

     

    Join Enterprise Ireland USA for the ‘Ireland and the US: On Track to Getting Back’ virtual event on 16th March where senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss learnings from 2020, and powering growth in 2021. Register here.

     

    Getting There: Strategies to promote gender diversity in business

    At Enterprise Ireland, we have long since recognised that one of the keys to optimising our start-up sector in Ireland is to boost gender equality in business.

    Diversity in business is vital to reflect our modern, global economy and create growing, sustainable companies. Extensive international research has shown that diversity increases innovation and creativity, while research from McKinsey & Co revealed that gender diversity leads to improved productivity and increased profitability.

    However, promoting gender diversity takes work. “Back in 2011, only 7% of our High-Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) included a woman on the founding team,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “Seeing this, we put in place specific goals and plans to increase this, and now, in 2020, 24% of our HPSUs have a woman founder.”

    While Enterprise Ireland is well known for its entrepreneurship supports for women, increasing gender diversity in business leadership is a relatively new objective. Towards the end of 2018, Enterprise Ireland embarked on research to look at the broader issue of women in business to assess the current situation in Ireland and to see what could be done to improve the situation. The research revealed some unsettling statistics: that less than 20% of CEOs were women, falling to 9% in larger companies; that Ireland had the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU; and that less than 10% of venture capital funding was going to companies with female founders. The research led to the publication of the Enterprise Ireland 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

    “The plan has four objectives,” explains Sheelagh. “To increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs, to increase the number of women founders in HPSUs, to increase the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in companies in Ireland. All these objectives are inter-connected, so to achieve one of them you need to achieve all of them.

    “We’ve set ambitious targets for ourselves – we’d like to double the number of women-led companies in the export market by 2025.” says Daly.

    Promoting female entrepreneurs

    While the figures have improved immensely over the past few years, it’s clear there are still some physical and psychological barriers that pose more of a challenge for women in business. For instance, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work in Ireland; in 2019, the ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland Report’ from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that 45% of women provide care for children and older adults on a daily basis, compared with only 29% of men. Networking opportunities, mentors and the visibility of women leaders in enterprise have also been identified as important for women in business.

    “One of the initiatives we developed to address the barriers to funding for women founders is a women-specific call for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), a fund for early-stage start-ups with the potential to turn into HPSUs, with specific CSF calls for women entrepreneurs. In 2020, 42% of the CSF projects awarded were led by female founders.” says Daly.

    “We also offer the ‘Innovate’ accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs which provides mentoring and a chance for women entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other.

    This is also what is done in Going for Growth, an initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland to offer peer support along with the mentoring piece from successful women entrepreneurs through interactive round table sessions.”

    “Another important initiative is the Part-time Key Manager Grant, which we introduced last year to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers. The grant is available for both men and women, but aims to attract more women to senior management roles.”

     

    Accessible help

    While the specific female entrepreneur supports outlined above give gender equality a significant boost, a key aim at Enterprise Ireland is to make every programme accessible for all. For instance, the first stop for most entrepreneurs is Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), with 31 offices in the country. The New Frontiers programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Third Level Institutes in 16 locations around Ireland and helps entrepreneurs develop their business in readiness for further investment without significant financial risk.

    “We see really strong companies led by women at every stage of their journey,” says Sheelagh. “The supports are there, and we are really keen for more women to avail of those supports. I do believe that there are a lot of women with great ideas and the ability to put them into action; it’s then about the confidence to take that leap and use supports like the New Frontiers programme and aids from the LEOs. Those supports are there and can lessen the risk for both men and women when developing a new business.”

    “Through these initiatives, Enterprise Ireland seeks to address the challenges facing women in business and to inspire and accelerate the growth of Irish businesses by advancing gender diversity in leadership teams and excellence in our start-up sector.”

    Transport & Logistics Industry Update – Webinar


    The Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the re-shaping of transport routes brought a very turbulent start to 2021. Logistics and transportation companies involved in the movement, storage and flow of goods have been directly impacted and had to rapidly adapt to changing business landscape. Irish companies exporting their products or importing components or raw materials need to follow and understand these trends to stay competitive.

    This Enterprise Ireland webinar identifies these challenges and examines current developments with a panel of industry experts.

    The webinar is chaired by Enterprise Ireland’s Director UK & Northern Europe Marina Donohoe with insights from:

     • Gopal R, Global Leader, Supply Chain & Logistics, Frost & Sullivan

    • John Ward, Managing Director, Maurice Ward & Co. Ltd Ireland

    • Richard Nolan, CEO, Nolan Transport – Nolan Group

     

    Register now to attend the webinar.

    Evolve UK Webinar – UK Water Sector – AMP 7 Update and Net Zero Outlook

    Enterprise Ireland UK’s webinar: UK Water Sector – AMP 7 Update and Net Zero Outlook provided attendees with an update on the UK water sector and discussed the Net Zero 2030 Routemap.

    Experts from across the industry gave their perspective on key issues, including the AMP 7 investment cycle, the sector’s plan to deliver upon a net zero strategy and the role that supply chain companies will play in achieving the sector’s carbon reduction targets.

    Watch the webinar to hear expert insights from

    –             Lee Horrocks, Director, LCH Executive

    –             Lila Thompson, Chief Executive, British Water

    –             Samuel Larsen, Programme Lead, Water UK

    –             David Riley, Head of Carbon Neutrality, Anglian Water

     

    The New UK – Succeeding in a Changing Market

    The UK Market is evolving. Irish companies are demonstrating incredible resilience in adapting to a changing landscape and are now looking to the future. Join our webinar on February 11th at 9am ‘The New UK: Succeeding in a Changing Market’.

    During this webinar we will be joined by a panel of guests to explore changes underway in the UK and Ireland’s unique relationship with this major market on our doorstep. Panellists include:

    • Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland
    • Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom
    • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
    • Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

    The CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners, a leading global consultancy specialising in top-line growth strategies, will share his insights on how to succeed in this new world and profit levers to consider.

    The webinar will also see CEOs from a range of Irish companies including Dublin AerospaceEI ElectronicsVRAIEPS, and Gifts Direct/The Irish Store, sharing their UK growth strategies – inspiring others with growth ambition.

    Register to view our on-demand webinar.

    Supporting Regional Development Critical To Future Jobs Growth

     

    Resilience is a word we became used to in 2020 and it is an apt term to describe how Irish business responded to the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period.

    For thousands of businesses across Ireland, and their staff, it has been a tough, challenging year marked by disruption and uncertainty. But what has been remarkable is how Irish businesses have responded to the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

    At Enterprise Ireland we work closely with the Irish manufacturing, export and internationally traded services sector.  We invest in established companies and start-ups, we assist companies to begin exporting or expand into new markets and we back research and development projects creating future jobs.

    This week we launched our annual review for 2020.  The good news is that the companies we are proud to support employ more than 220,000 in Ireland.  Despite the challenges faced in last year, nearly 16,500 new jobs were created, closely mirroring the 2019 outturn.

    However, job losses were significantly higher than in previous years, resulting in a net reduction of 872 jobs across the companies we support.

    There is no sugar coating the fact that it was a tough year for business.  However, behind these statistics are individual stories of companies taking brave decisions to change their business model, reimagine their product offering and find new ways of doing business and connecting with customers to trade through the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

    Enterprise Ireland has worked with these companies throughout the year to ensure viable companies have the liquidity, supports and advice they need to trade, and importantly, to sustain jobs.

    Enterprise Ireland supported companies have a key role in the Irish economy.  65% of employment is outside the Dublin region and these indigenous Irish companies, many of which are world leaders in their field, are critical to delivering balanced regional economic development.

    Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for regional development.  It outlines specific plans for each region in the country, drawing on their existing enterprise base, their connections with third level institutions and their unique potential for growth.

    The strategy is backed significant funding.  This time last year more than €40m was allocated, in a competitive call, to 26 projects fostering regional entrepreneurship and job creation.

    These included the Future Mobility Campus Ireland, based in Clare, which explores the potential of autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, UCDNova’s Ag Tech innovation centre in Kildare and the Clermont Hub in Wicklow which focuses on content creation and draws on the region’s established film and audio/visual track record.  The 26 projects were supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which has seen €100m invested in similar projects since 2017.

    Given the potential impact of Brexit, particularly in the Border region, 11 similar projects designed to cluster expertise and innovation were supported with €17m in support under the Border Enterprise Development Fund in 2020.

    These were strategic initiatives, closely linked to government regional policy, with a medium to long-term focus on supporting regional enterprise.

    However, due to Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland moved last year to provide more agile interventions to regional businesses assist them to reset and recover.

    Ensuring that viable companies had the access to finance was an important necessity.  Through the government-backed ‘Sustaining Enterprise Scheme’ Enterprise Ireland allocated €124m last year to support more than 400 companies employing more than 10,000 people.  The majority of this funding went to regionally based companies.

    Similarly, €8.2m in funding for 95 enterprise centres, which are critical to the start-up ecosystem and future job growth regionally, was made available in September.

    Retail business across Ireland also benefitted from the Online Retail Scheme which saw 330 retailers allocated €11.8m in funding to enhance their online offering, reach new customers and increase sales.

    Through a mix of strategic funding aimed at long-term enterprise development and more agile funding supports Enterprise Ireland has helped to sustain jobs throughout Ireland in 2020.  We’ve also supported those sectors, such as cleantech, construction and life sciences which continued to grow and create jobs last year.

    The pandemic will have lasting effects including how we work and where we work.  Many of these long-term changes can complement strong local and regional economies.  A key element of the Powering The Regions strategy was the potential of remote working and co-working hubs that Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing with our partners.  That potential has been accelerated by the changing work patterns evidenced in the past year. Now, more than ever, having a strategic approach to enterprise development is vital, and Enterprise Ireland looks forward to the role it can play as we recover and build for the future.

    By Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.

    New African Dawn: Launch of the Continental Free Trade Agreement

    A new year usually brings with it hope, optimism and new resolutions. The first two weeks of 2021 have however been fraught with the on-going pandemic, Britain’s exit from the EU and increased protectionism and populism around the globe. In marked contrast with this tone, one continent is pushing forward with hope, optimism and new resolutions.

    The first of January 2021 saw the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This milestone agreement strives for greater trade cooperation on the continent. The aim is to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4-trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. This agreement comes into force, with support from 54 of the 55 countries recognised by the African Union (Eritrea being the sole exception) is a hugely positive move.

    The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 and of the 54 Member States of the African Union that have signed, 30 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

    The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single market for goods and services, facilitate the movement of persons, promote industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth, and resolve the issue of multiple memberships, in accordance with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The agreement lays a solid foundation for the establishment of a Continental Common Market.

    AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity to boost intra-regional trade as well as increase Africa’s negotiating position on the international stage. Intra-African trade has always been relatively low. In 2019, only 15% of Africa’s $560-billion worth of imports came from the continent – compare this with a figure of 68% in the European Union (UNCTAD).

    In addition, many African nations have struggled to develop better-enabling environments for attracting investment and it should follow that this agreement will help to make the continent an increasingly attractive location for foreign companies seeking to penetrate its huge market potential.

    This landmark agreement is off the starting block but there is much to be negotiated to reach the desired goal of #OneAfricanMarket.

    Under AfCFTA trading, with an aim to eliminate export tariffs on 97% of goods traded on the continent, tariffs on various commodities where rules of origin have been agreed will be drastically reduced and businesses of all sizes will have access to a much bigger market than they used to before. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade will also be addressed and a mechanism for reporting of NTBs has been put in place (www.tradebarriers.africa).

    In parallel to the AfCFTA, the African Union has also introduced the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.

    Though it will be years before the AfCFTA is fully implemented, the significant steps that have been taken to get the agreement to this point should not be underestimated, particularly in the current difficult global environment. Increasing prosperity on the African continent will ensure that it continues to be a continent of great interest to Irish exporters.

    Enterprise Ireland has been assisting Irish companies to navigate the Sub-Saharan African market through our office in Johannesburg, along with an established and growing network of industry specialists across the continent. Contact us to learn more about the opportunities for your business in this growing export destination.

    Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor, Middle East, Africa & India