On St Paddy’s Day

It’s nice to be part of the expat community renowned for throwing the best diplomatic parties. Last night I lived out that image people always seem to have of expat life: rubbing shoulders with ministers, CEOs, and ambassadors’ wives in a leafy suburban garden with a pool, fed by dozens of local staff with endless rounds of smoked salmon appetisers.

There were lots of other ordinary folk there too, of all nationalities: the NGO manager, the Toyota sales manager, the teacher, the consultant-turned-author – and, this being an Irish event, a few missionaries too.

Being Irish in Tanzania has its drawbacks though, like the 100 USD tourists pay to enter the country (for some reason, many other European nationals pay less). On the whole though, Tanzanians do seem to like us. We’re by no means the biggest donor, but through the government agency IrishAid we’ve been here since 1975, and Tanzania is one of our main recipients of aid. Our people have been here a long time too, from the lonely nuns right up to the well-known international NGOs like Concern.

But like many partner countries, Ireland is moving away from a focus on aid to one on business links, as the ambassador’s speech yesterday emphasised. African growth and rising consumer demand open up opportunities for food-producing nations like ours: the Irish Dairy Board is to open an East Africa office later this year. Energy firm ESB International is doing major infrastructure works worth EUR 15.5 million. Diageo, through its subsidiary East African Breweries, acquired Tanzania-based Serengeti Breweries in 2011. One of Tanzania’s largest – and supposedly most modern – recruitment firms is headed by an Irishman.

So maybe soon I can buy Irish butter for a normal price instead of it being on my list of little luxuries?

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