• Your Excellency Molosiwa Selepeng, High Commissioner for Botswana and Dean of the African diplomatic corps;
  • African Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
  • Members of the diplomatic corps;
  • Representatives of the Australia-Africa Business Council and the Australia-Africa Universities Network;
  • Our hosts today at the Australian National University;
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to join you today for this important forum linking business, academia and government.

There is an African proverb that says ‘one who does not look ahead always remains behind’. 
Forums like this provide excellent opportunities to look ahead, share ideas and identify practical solutions to issues of relevance to both continents.


Africa today is a continent of great promise.

As so many countries around the world are grappling with the burdens of slowing growth and ageing populations, Africa is opening up.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.9 billion by 2060, with a middle class of 1.1 billion, over three times its current size.

With over half the population currently under 20 years of age, Africa’s ‘youth bulge’ will create enormous economic and other opportunities.

In the 1990s only 3 of 53 African countries had democracies. Since then, the number has risen dramatically.

The number of coups, which averaged 20 per decade in 1960-90, has halved.

7 of the top 20 countries ranked for the percentage of women represented in parliament are African.

In fact, Rwanda boasts the highest percentage of women in parliament – in the world.

Life expectancy across Africa has increased by about 10 per cent since 1990 and child mortality rates in most countries have been steeply declining.

For all of these reasons, Africa is a continent of great hope.

Of course, challenges remain.

By just about any measure of infrastructure coverage, African countries are lagging behind their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

Africa’s annual infrastructure financing gap is estimated at $50 billion per year.

And with its ‘youth bulge’, Africa will need a strong foundation of literacy, technical and vocational skills to build a productive workforce to service the growing demand.

Africa’s transformation will rely on many things – but in particular, investment and trade, education, and food security are three critical elements if we are to see that promise turn into reality.

Today, I want to talk about what Australia can do – and has been doing – to help in these three particular areas.

Investment and Business

The focus of Australia’s engagement with Africa is building our economic partnership - including growing the trade and investment relationship with African states.

As an important step in that engagement, we have established the Advisory Group on Australia Africa Relations, AGAAR.

You’ll be hearing more about AGAAR from Foreign Minister Bishop at Africa DownUnder next week.

Our growing trade and investment relationship is reflected in the number of forums and networks advancing the agenda –

  • The launch of the Australia Africa Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne - a few days ago;
  • Africa Down Under in Perth next week;
  • The Australia Africa Dialogue in Zambia in two weeks; and
  • The ‘Doing business in Africa Conference’ in Melbourne in October – which I will be attending 

These events are a clear demonstration of Australia’s commitment to an increasingly diverse trade and investment relationship.

Australia is already a significant investor in Africa.

There are an estimated 200 Australian mining companies, with over 770 mining projects currently underway on the African continent.

In fact, outside of Australia, Africa is the single biggest market for Australian Mining, Equipment, Technology and Services.

When you’re talking about the extractives industry, Australia and Africa have a lot in common.

We have much to gain by sharing our experience, skills, and opportunities.

We have much to gain by working together to grow our trade and investment relationships.

And we want to support African countries in their pursuit of sustainable development, through our investment relationship.

Australia continues to work together with African countries and industry to build capacity in governance, management and to provide vocational training.

Working with the African Union’s New Economic Partnership for African Development, Australia is providing project management skills for public officials along key infrastructure corridors across Africa.

We are also working with SkillsDMC, the Australian Industry Skills Council, to assist Mozambique and Zambia, to develop modern competency frameworks that meet industry needs.


Of course, there is one factor which is fundamental to growing trade and investment – indeed, like for every part of the world, it underpins the future of Africa’s economy.

And that is education.

In West Africa, they say that ‘knowledge is like a garden - if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.’

Cultivation – that is, investment in minds and education – is one of the strongest foundations Africa can set for its future.

Investing in human capital will be a key driver of African growth and development.

I’m proud to say that Australia has played a part in cultivating this investment in human capital in Africa:

by supporting African countries to pursue sustainable development through our Australia Awards program.

Since 2011, almost 3,500 Africans have studied or completed training under the Australia Awards program.

This year, 185 students from across Africa commenced Masters courses under the Australia Awards program, which is designed to build capacity and leadership skills across the continent.

The benefits of a scholarship can be far reaching, extending beyond just the recipient.

In Tanzania, Dr Mary Rose Giattas has been leading her country’s efforts to address cervical and breast cancer.

Her work in cancer prevention has resulted in mass screening campaigns across the country.

And the creation of a national guideline on preventing, diagnosing and treating cervical cancer.

Because of Dr Giattas’ work, more than 30,000 women in Tanzania have been screened for cervical cancer.

Because of her work, Tanzanian men have become more involved, and more supportive of cancer prevention and treatment for their wives and children.

Because of her work, there has been a notable increase in the numbers of women seeking health care.
Dr Giattas was the recipient of an Australia Award.

She completed her Master degree in Public Health at Melbourne University in 2008.

Her story is just one of many.

Like Nazira Abdula, the current Minister of Health in Mozambique, who completed her Master of Nutrition and dietetics from Victoria University under the Australia Awards program.

Like numerous other Australia Award recipients, Australia’s investment in Dr Giattas and Ms Abdula was an investment in today’s – and tomorrow’s – leaders.

And in addition to building critical skills and knowledge in individuals, the Australia Awards program provides alumni with professional development and networking opportunities.

Australia has internationally recognised expertise in extractives, agriculture and public policy.

We will continue to provide scholarships and training to Africans in the areas in which we excel.

There are also incredible opportunities in education here, in Australia.

Australian international education providers stand to benefit from the demands of Africa’s emerging middle class.

The inaugural ‘West Africa Future Unlimited’ exhibition is one such opportunity.

The exhibition, planned for next month [September], will provide a platform for Australian education institutions to position themselves as world class education providers in the growing markets of Ghana and Nigeria.

Food Security

Ladies and gentlemen, for two continents separated by a huge ocean, you would think that Africa and Australia wouldn’t have much in common.

We do.

Our continents are vast, with huge variety in climate and vegetation.

Whether we’re talking about the Sahara or the Simpson, Kosciusko or Kilimanjaro, or the tropics of Darwin or Djibouti.

Africans and Australians know crippling drought.

We know severe bush fires and devastating floods.

We also know the challenges of producing crops that can withstand the elements.

Food security is an issue for both our continents.

As a result of the challenges of producing food in Australia’s severe climate, we’re a world leader in agricultural research and development.

And we are uniquely positioned to support Africa to meet its growing food demands and increase food security.

We are assisting in research and capacity building through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

We have also enhanced agricultural productivity in Africa through Australia’s national science agency - the CSIRO.

Australian aid funding is harnessing the power of African businesses to improve farming livelihoods through our $53 million contribution to AgResults and the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund.

The Fund is focused on making markets work for the poor, on encouraging private sector innovation, and developing agricultural technology that benefits smallholder farmers.

Through the G20’s Global Agriculture Food Security Program, Australia is proud to align our aid investments with the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program.

This ensures that the money we provide is spent in consultation with the countries that will benefit from it.

Our significant contributions to agriculture have, and will remain, a high priority for Australia’s aid program in Africa.


Now, in my remarks today, I’ve provided only a snapshot of what we are doing in investment, education, and food security in Africa.

I hope your discussions will result in rich and fruitful outcomes that will benefit both our continents.

In Kenya, the Kikuyu have a saying that ‘one log does not make a bridge’.

The work that Australia and Africa are doing together in business and investment, in education, and on food security – these are the logs that will make a strong bridge between our continents.

Australia is proud to be supporting Africa to harness the enormous potential that a young, educated and hopeful continent has to offer.

To make that bridge, to look ahead.


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