It is an honour to be here representing Australia at the 19th African Union summit. This is the ninth consecutive African Union summit Australia has attended. My presence here today is a demonstration of our enduring commitment to strengthen our engagement with Africa.
Australia is here because we believe in Africa’s future, and believe in investing in Africa’s future. And we believe in strengthening the capacity of Africans to build that future. This year, we are offering over one thousand development scholarships to Africans under our Australia Awards program.
We are here to listen to Africa’s priorities and to deepen our understanding of the challenges and opportunities of this dynamic continent.
We come to this summit with unique perspectives. We are a developed country, but one from the global ’south' that understands the development challenges that Africa faces.
I travelled here across the Indian Ocean, which binds our two continents together. Indeed, some 290,000 Africans, according to our latest census, have crossed that same ocean to make their home in Australia. It is this commitment which transforms us from being more than close friends: they make us family.
Australia is known for its tough environment – droughts, floods and natural disasters. We come from a continent that is characterised by large deserts, tropical rainforests, mineral resources and arable land, which has its challenges. These are challenges that Africa knows only too well, and that Australia is helping to meet.
Australia is a lead donor to the recent humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Equally important, we are helping to build longer-term food security and resilience in Africa, drawing on our own experiences and expertise in this area. This includes delivering on our $150 million pledge to improve food security in Africa, and a commitment of $100 million to support disaster risk reduction initiatives.
Australia has secured its economic prosperity through industries that are very familiar to Africa – such as mining, agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
We understand well the blessings and curses of natural resource endowment. We have learnt, through years of trial-and-error, how to manage better such resources wealth to ensure it serves the interests of the entire nation. Lessons that we are keen to share with you, through programs such as our Mining for Development initiative. Over 200 African officials have already participated in mining study tours to Australia.
As we look across the Indian Ocean, we see countries not unlike our own. Young nations, with growing populations, dependent on access to foreign investment and foreign markets for economic development, and vulnerable to global economic shocks. We have much to learn from one another.
Australia believes that Africa’s future is a bright one, and Australia wants to be part of that future.
Africa is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world, forecast to grow at some seven per cent annually for the next twenty years.
Foreign direct investment is pouring into Africa, and now far outstrips aid to Africa. With a median age of twenty, Africa is poised to reap a 'demographic dividend' that could transform the continent in the same way China’s economy took off thirty years ago. The African middle class is growing. Infrastructure, especially in telecommunications, is improving. Regional economic integration is intensifying.
And on the global issues that confront us all, Africa is, well and truly, having its voice heard. Africa is now at the heart of the human story, and Africa is rightly demanding the world’s attention.
Australia understands that any country wishing to play a role in global affairs must have an enduring engagement in Africa.
And so, Australia is helping build Africa’s economic future. Over 240 Australian companies are involved in over 650 resource projects right across Africa, helping Africa to develop and benefit from its natural resources wealth. Australian companies have invested over $24 billion in mining projects across Africa, with many more billions of investment in the pipeline.
Australia is committed to working more closely with Africa politically and diplomatically. Australia is growing its diplomatic network in Africa. We have opened a new Embassy in Addis Ababa and will shortly open an Embassy in Senegal – our first ever in Francophone Africa. We have diplomatic relations with every African country and are accredited to every major sub-regional organisation.
Australia is working to strengthen the capacity of the AU to represent Africa globally, by contributing to the AU’s institutional strengthening program and supporting the AU’s presence in New York.
Australia is partnering in Africa’s development. Our development assistance to Africa has more than tripled since 2007, and will continue to grow. We are seeking to become a member of Africa’s premier development finance institution, the African Development Bank. Our one thousand scholarships are aligned with African priorities and Australian expertise, including agriculture, mining governance and public policy.
Australia is also helping build peace and security in Africa. We have contributed personnel to the UN Mission in Southern Sudan (UNMISS) and provided financial support and equipment to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Today I am pleased to announce an additional contribution of $1.5 million to the AMISOM Trust Fund, increasing Australia’s contribution this year to $3.5 million. And we support peacebuilding work across Africa.
We are helping to address the threat of piracy, hosting a conference in Perth this week to discuss piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. And we are helping to strengthen law enforcement and counter-terrorism capabilities across the continent.
Finally, Australia is cooperating with Africa on global and multilateral issues – working together to advance action on climate change, sustainable development, and lowering barriers to agricultural trade (we are strong supporters of the African Cotton Four Initiative).
Australia seeks to build a long-term partnership with Africa. A partnership constructed from common perspectives, mutual understanding and shared interests. We understand Africa’s challenges, we have much in common and we stand ready to help.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555