While last week’s budget slashed aid spending to Africa from about $100 million to about $30 million, there has been a decisive shift to move away from the “outdated thinking” of aid as philanthropy towards a conversation around economic development.
The budget flagged a number of initiatives around capacity building, scholarships and special visitor programs to bring African workers involved in the minerals and energy industries out to Australia to build links between the two nations.
AAMIG’s Perth-based project manager Liam Foran told Energy Newsthat these initiatives would likely take the form of training Masters and PhD students in technical areas and short course programs like training mines inspectors and training people on geo-data.
“Then there will be technical assistance work through the World Bank and other places where we have an ongoing donor relationship that actually goes in and helps companies reform their energy and minerals policies,” Foran said.
Austrade has identified seven key METS growth markets for Australia in Africa comprising South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana.
“While there are no real concrete initiatives or money on the table yet, there seems to be a lot of good will there,” Foran said.
“It’s about exporting these high-value, high-skilled jobs overseas and helping countries overseas develop them.
“There is a movement to shift away from the notion of aid as philanthropy as opposed to aid as economic diplomacy.”
AAMIG welcomed the federal government’s moves to strengthen Australia-Africa ties, noting that some 220 ASX-listed companies operate in Africa – now the largest international market for Australian resource and METS companies.
These companies are key partners for African countries exploring and developing their mineral endowment for broad-based economic and social development.
“Over the last 15-20 years, Australia has been a major contributor with its entrepreneurial, ethical, responsible and well-run extractives companies making the ideal development partner for many African nations,” AAMIG acting CEO Adel van der Walt said in a post-budget statement.
“AAMIG is calling for public debate to shift from the outdated thinking of aid as philanthropy and charity, to aid as economic diplomacy delivering long-term development employing and sustaining generations of Africans.
“This is also what the people of Africa want: access to opportunities and to make those opportunities sustainable and permanent.
“They want to be involved and meaningfully engaged in productive economic enterprises. They often find such opportunities in well-managed, Australian mining, oil and gas companies working in their countries.”
In a further step towards stronger Australia-Africa relations, AAMIG has boosted its cooperation with the Australian government, including supporting Australia’s effective use of its embassies, ambassadors, trade commissioners and economic diplomacy programs to support African governments to create and maintain quality regulatory frameworks that can attract foreign direct investment.
AAMIG held key meetings in Canberra on the eve of the budget with staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Office for National Assessments, Austrade and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“AAMIG acknowledges and supports efforts underway within government to bolster Australia-Africa relations and increase foreign direct investment and applauds both Minister Julie Bishop and DFAT staff for seeking new ways to collaborate with industry and make tax payers’ dollars go further on the ground in Africa,” van der Walt said.
“We look forward to hearing more about the proposed centres of excellence for extractives from Minister MacFarlane’s Department of Industry and to further discuss with DFAT how AAMIG can continue to engage with Australian and African governments.
“We urge the Federal Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry to maintain their focus on building strong strategic relationships with the countries of Africa to ensure that the mineral wealth of the continent is the driver for economic growth and jobs-led poverty alleviation.
“Australia and the Australian resources sector have a key role to play in making this happen.”