1. ITV Report

Taoiseach begins African trip with Mali engagements

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is beginning a week-long trip to Africa Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The Taoiseach is starting a trip to Africa with a series of engagements in Mali.

The West African nation is the first stop on Leo Varadkar’s week-long trip to the continent, which will also include a visit to Ethiopia.

Mr Varadkar is expected to meet Irish troops based in Africa during the trip, and visit a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp.

Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe is accompanying the Taoiseach to Mali.

On Sunday, the pair will visit the EU Training Mission to Mali, where they will meet members of the Irish Defence Forces serving with the mission to improve the capacity of the Malian armed forces.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said that from a security perspective, it is one of the most challenging missions for the Irish Defence Forces.

During his visit, the Taoiseach will also meet Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

In Ethiopia, Mr Varadkar’s engagements will include a meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde.

He will also meet with a number of Irish NGOs operating in Ethiopia, attend a reception with the Irish community, and visit the Unesco world heritage site in Lalibela where he will launch a new partnership initiative on cultural heritage between the governments of Ireland and Ethiopia.

Mr Varadkar’s trip will conclude with a visit to a refugee camp for Eritrean refugees, and to Irish Aid-funded projects in northern Ethiopia.

Ireland has been operating a development programme in Ethiopia since 1994 in partnership with the nation’s government agencies and UN institutions.

The programme is Ireland’s largest anywhere in the world, amounting to 30 million euro in 2018 and a planned 32 million euro in 2019.