Irish companies on the West African Trade Mission have signed business contracts worth over €50m on Tuesday in Lagos, Nigeria, according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Enterprise Ireland.

A significant number of leads for potential sales by Irish exporting companies were also identified during the 4-day, 3-city trade mission to both Nigeria and Ghana.

Enterprise Ireland said it aims to grow Irish export sales to the West Africa region by 60% to €600m by 2018. The two countries have a combined population of over 200 million with Nigeria having the biggest economy in Africa and the 20th largest economy in the world.

Companies who signed contracts today included the Institute of Education; water treatment specialist EPS Group; Hybrid Energy Solutions which specialises in the design of hybrid power generating systems; EDC Engineering Design Consultants and ACE Control Systems, a supplier of Building Energy Management Systems.

Speaking in Nigeria, Minister Coveney told the Irish Farmers Journal: “The consumption patterns here, the pace of development and change here are such that there are a lot of opportunities for Irish companies.”

Potential for Irish input in Nigerian cattle breeding

He added that the Irish and Nigerian government were also considering joint knowledge transfer programmes, particularly in the beef and dairy industries, which could provide additional business for Irish companies. One example he mentioned was genetics, with growing Nigerian demand for Irish breeding cattle and semen.

While sounding a note of caution in terms of the need to be “streetwise” and seek support when doing business in Nigeria, Coveney added: “There is a new government here, they have a lot credibility, they do want to see more home-grown produce - at the moment Nigeria imports practically everything in terms of premium foods - and there’s no reason why Irish companies couldn’t be involved in developing capacity here, but in doing so developing the kind of relationship that would help us export a lot of products too.”

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said “We are delighted that this Trade Mission has resulted in contracts worth in the region of €50m for Enterprise Ireland client companies. The objectives of the Trade Mission are to build strong economic links with West Africa and in particular, Nigeria and Ghana and to take advantage of the market demand in this fast growing region.”

Phelim O'Neill contributed reporting for this story from Nigeria