Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr

OPENING the 10th annual Africa Down Under Conference in Perth this morning, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr said the evidence was mounting that this century had the potential to be more than the “Asian Century, but also the African Century”.
Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr Australia promoting African self-reliance: Carr

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr

Michael Cairnduff

Carr said with Australia positioned on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean it was possible to see this potential in sharp focus and it was important to remember that Australia was not Europe, was not America, but an Indian Ocean country looking across the Indian Ocean to Africa.

“We are Australia, with our own view and it is a view that wants to help African countries, engage with them and partner with them to realise their economic potential and promote self-reliance,” Carr said.

He said Australia’s development assistance, in order to help Africa ultimately achieve economic self-reliance, had quadrupled in the past five years.

“We’ve a good deal to offer one another – like Africa, we understand the opportunities and risks of natural resource endowment. On our side, however, we have the advantage of a mature, world’s-best-practice mining industry.

“This has developed through trial and error, and mistakes, and through debate over decades. In many ways, we are natural partners and in the spirit of cooperation and our own economic interest Australia has committed to developing a long-term partnership with Africa.”

In the period from now to 2015, according to Carr, Africa will have some of the world’s fastest growing economies, as predicted by the International Monetary Fund. Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria are predicted to enjoy growth rates between 6.8-8.0% per annum in that period.

Carr said this was supported by data from the African Development Bank (ADB), which showed that direct foreign investment in Africa rose from $A9 billion in 2000 to $80 billion last year, which was an astonishing figure.

“Africa is changing shape and it is changing shape for the better. In the past we might have been pessimistic about Africa’s prospects, but in recent years we have seen East Asia redraw the world’s economic fault lines and it happened very fast.

“That transformation too can happen in Africa – you should dare to imagine what this continent might look like at the end of this century and what proportion of the global economy will be based in Africa at that time.

“Whatever its shape, there is one thing that is clear, with the size of this continent and the work we’ve invested, Australia will be there.”

Africa’s competitive edge, in terms of economic development, includes a young population with a median age of 28 years – compared to 30 years in Asia and 40 years in Europe – and it is also undergoing rapid urbanisation, resulting in a growing middle class.

Carr said the security situation in Africa was much improved, along with the quality of governance, which was also contributing to its attractiveness as an investment location.

“We are opening new diplomatic missions in Ethiopia and soon in Senegal, we are joining the ADB, we are strengthening political links with African regional organisations and high level contact.”

There are 200 Australian companies involved in 650 projects in 37 countries, with most of them represented at Africa Down Under.

“Africa hosts the largest number of Australian mining projects of any region outside of Australia, around 40% of all overseas mining projects,” Carr said.

He said it was clear that mining companies, explorers and service providers were the driving force needed to unlock mineral wealth in Africa, but we needed to look no further than our own success story in this regard to understand that governments had a clear role to play.

“Resources must be managed well, with legislation, governance frameworks, sustainable environmental practices and a skilled workforce – Australians have more than 100 years of experience,” he said.

“With this experience we have some things to share. We are committed to partnering with Africa to share what Australia has learnt.”

This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication