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African Market Overview


The African continent comprises a diverse range of cultural, political and economic environments across 54 nations that can, at first, be difficult to approach. Three key dimensions should be considered in order to best approach and comprehend this market.



With a population of 1.2 billion people that is set to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, Africa will account for half of all the world’s population growth in that period. Predictions suggest that by 2030 a quarter of the world’s youth population will be African and, by 2100, Africa will account for a third of the world population (UN).



Since the beginning of the century, the African economy has been catching up with those of mature markets fuelled by increased natural resource prices, foreign investment, technological jumps, urbanization and a growing middle class. Between 2010 and 2023 the overall African GDP is expected to grow by an annual average of 4%, double the EU expected growth. In 2019, four of the top five fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. According to the World Bank the African food market value could reach $1 trillion by 2030 if the required capital, electrical and technological support is provided.



Poor infrastructure and distribution remain one of the key constraint for business development in Africa, in particular for internal trade between countries, despite progress made through the African Continental Agreement on Free Trade Area.


A growing population and growing wealth combined with underperforming agricultural sector, storage and distribution, has led to significant growth in African demand for imported food  most notably for cereals, fats, sugars, but also dairy, meat, prepared foods and seafood. Some of the main suppliers to Africa are Brazil (sugar and meat), France (cereals, dairy, meat) South Africa (beverage), Netherlands (dairy, seafood), and China (tea and seafood).


Irish exports to Africa reached €557m in 2018 representing growth of 59% since 2010.

Bord Bia have identified Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt as priority strategic markets for dairy and South Africa for beverages.



In 2018, Irish dairy exports to Nigeria reached € 77 million of which FFMP (fat filled milk powder) accounted for over 70% of dairy exports. Interestingly FFMP is no longer regarded as a cheap substitute of WMP but has become a category of itself.



Total exports to Algeria were just over €52 million in 2018. Irish exports to Algeria are dominated by cheese – 10,000 tonnes valued at €32 million in 2018, comprising 40% of total dairy exports. Cheddar is the key dairy product used by Algerian cheese manufacturing with whom Irish cheddar enjoys a solid reputation for its quality.



Total Irish exports to Egypt were valued at € €34 million in 2018. Irish dairy exports to Egypt reached €24 million in 2018 in a market that was particularly affected by the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound in 2017 and high butter prices.


South Africa

Irish beverage exports to South Africa reached close to €15 million in 2018, largely comprised of whiskey accounting for €14 million.



Understanding the African continental, regional and national political, economic and cultural environment are some of the key criteria that exporters need to consider. Bord Bia have a strong team in place to assist exporters to identify, understand and unleash opportunities in Africa with Ese Okpomo, Market Specialist West Africa, joining the team based out of Lagos, Nigeria, to work alongside the existing network of in-market experts Billel Haddad and Liz Whitehouse respectively covering North Africa and Southern Africa.


An extended version of this article was originally published in the Irish Farmers’ Journal on 21 December 2019.