The Taoiseach has said that China, Russia and Saudi Arabia will be the dominant influences in Africa unless Europe urgently forges deeper links with the continent.

Speaking during a visit to Ethiopia, as part of his six-day visit to Africa, Leo Varadkar said: "The present generation of leaders in Africa there is a good chance that they were educated in Europe and America. There is a possibility that the next generation of African leaders will have been educated in Beijing or Shanghai.

"If we in Ireland and in Europe do not get more involved in this region and invest in this region, we risk opening a space for other countries to enter, be it China or Saudi Arabia or Russia. We need to make sure we are here and we are crowding in."

Mr Varadkar met Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde - the country's first female president - today, as well as African Union Commission representatives.

The Taoiseach and Mr Ahmed discussed Irish-Ethiopian links, which have been in place for 25 years.

Mr Varadkar said that he had sought further support for Ireland's bid for a place on the United Nations Security Council.

He also said that Mr Ahmed had sought his view on Brexit, adding "Prime Minster (Abiy Ahmed) was aware of it and regretted it was happening because Ethiopia and Africa want a strong Europe and a united Europe".

The Taoiseach launched an alumni initiative aimed at Ethiopians who have studied in Ireland.

He also met representatives of the Irish community in Ethiopia.

Mr Varadkar continues his engagements in the country tomorrow with visits to a number of Irish Aid funded projects.

He began his trip to Africa in Mali on Sunday where he met the 20 Irish members of the Defence Forces who are training the Malian army as part of a European Union mission.

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