| Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
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Chapter 2 Government to Government Links
This Chapter discusses Australia's links with the countries of Africa at
governmental level. It comprises a brief overview of Australia's diplomatic
representation on the continent and other government to government links at
both bilateral and multilateral levels.
Australia's diplomatic representation
Australia has diplomatic relations with 51 of the 53 African
countries—an increase of 10 since 2007. Australia has eight High
Commission/Embassy posts on the African continent. These posts are:
- Abuja, Nigeria (High
- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
(opened in July 2010);
- Accra, Ghana (High
- Cairo, Egypt;
- Harare, Zimbabwe;
- Nairobi, Kenya (High
- Port Louis,
- Pretoria, South
Africa (High Commission).
Each of the posts (except Addis Ababa) has responsibility for a number
of countries from 4 to 11, covering 48 countries. The other five African
countries are served from posts in Portugal and France. There are also
consulates in Libya and Mozambique. Details of Australia’s diplomatic
representation in Africa is provided in Appendix E.
During the course of the inquiry, DFAT advised the Committee that
Australia had reopened its embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which will become
fully operational in 2012, and had also established
diplomatic relations with Somalia.
DFAT told the Committee that Australia’s representation had been 'stronger
and better developed in certain parts of the continent', for example with those
countries in southern and eastern Africa with Commonwealth connections. In
other areas, such as parts of West Africa and especially the Francophone
countries (countries where French is either the first or second language), Australia's
representation and relationships had 'been a little thin.'
Indeed, Australia has over the years had posts in Algeria (1976–1991), Ethiopia
(1985–1987), Tanzania (1962–1987), and Zambia (1980–1991). These posts were
closed due to budgetary cuts.
Australian interests are also served in countries where Australia does
not have a diplomatic post through:
- support from Canadian
posts in 10 countries, mainly in West Africa; and
- the appointment of
honorary consuls—nine countries were covered, but were in various stages of
Nigeria, Uganda—candidates have been identified and the appointments are
Tanzania—candidates have been identified and DFAT is undertaking internal
clearance processes before proceeding;
Town, South Africa—temporarily vacant; and
Cameroon—suitable candidates have yet to be identified.
To place Australia's representation in Africa into context, the
Committee notes the diplomatic representation of our major trading partners and
other countries from South East Asia on the African continent:
- Canada—18 Embassies
and High Commissions;
- China—41 Embassies;
- European Union—41
- India—26 Embassies
and High Commissions;
- Japan—32 Embassies;
- Malaysia—13 Embassies
and High Commissions;
- Republic of Korea—16
- Thailand—8 Embassies;
- United Kingdom—34
Embassies and High Commissions;
- United States of
America—47 Embassies; and
- Vietnam—6 Embassies.
Coverage of Australian representation—breadth or
The Committee has explored with witnesses whether Australian
representation in Africa is adequate and, if not, how this might be addressed.
The alternatives canvassed were whether there should be additional posts or
whether the number of Australia-based staff at diplomatic posts should be
As noted earlier, several Australian posts in Africa were closed due to
budgetary considerations— Ethiopia and Tanzania in 1987; and Algeria and Zambia
Opening new posts
The value of Australia having a physical diplomatic presence in a
country was supported by Coffey International, an Australian company involved
in mining and foreign aid:
We certainly value having interaction with a high commission
or an embassy in a country because it helps us get a voice at the table on big
issues that can impede our business or strengthen our business. I refer to
things like labour laws, visas, trade delegations or even getting involved in
some policy dialogue with the host nation's government, which does come up a
bit with foreign aid work. …
The Australian missions are a very good source of
introduction and public intelligence. We value those resources highly.
Similar sentiment was expressed by Professor Evans who told the
Committee that there was 'something to be said for hanging up the flag in a
particular capital’. Even if there were only a small number of Australian-based
staff, the relationships and information flows that would arise would be
The Committee sought opinions as to where additional posts should be
opened. Two areas received strong support. Firstly, reopening the post in Addis
Ababa and secondly, opening a post in Francophone Africa.
Dr David Dorwood, advocating Addis Ababa, told the Committee:
I think the thought of reopening in Addis is a good one. We
had a very short tenure in Addis Ababa. All kinds of organisations are based
there. There are more diplomatic embassies in Addis than in any other country—and
probably even more than in South Africa.
Dr Dorward added that many African migrants to Australia came from the
Horn of Africa. As well, he considered it almost impossible for a high
commissioner in Nairobi keep Australia informed of the situation in the region
which was increasing in its strategic importance. It was also important to
monitor carefully the activities of the Ethiopian government in Eritrea and
Somalia. The Committee notes that
the Horn of Africa and Southern Sudan is an area of instability.
An important consideration was the siting of the headquarters of the
African Union in Addis Ababa. The Hon. Kerry Sibraa, former President of the
Senate, High Commissioner to Zimbabwe and six other southern African countries,
and current Honorary Consul-General in Australia for Mozambique, told the
Committee that a number of African countries sent senior diplomats to the
African Union (AU) headquarters:
With representatives of every African country being situated
in Addis, you get access to African countries that normally it would be
impossible to go to, and you get access at a high level.
Mr Sibraa added that Addis Ababa was a transport hub for Africa providing
air transport access to numerous African countries.
Support for reopening the post in Addis Ababa was also provided by
Professor Helen Ware, former High Commissioner to Zambia, Malawi and Namibia,
and former Ambassador to Angola, who told the Committee that a further
advantage was that African Union peacekeeping was organised from Addis Ababa
and so would be a good place to position an Australian military attaché.
The lack of diplomatic representation in French speaking west Africa was
raised by the Australia Africa Business Council, ACT Chapter as being a 'quite
serious omission.' This was because of the 'tremendous mineral opportunities'
which existed in the region. Dr David Lucas, Member,
Australia Africa Business Council, ACT Chapter, commented that DFAT was
apparently 'awash with French speakers' so a post in Francophone Africa was
Support for a post in Francophone Africa was provided by Mr Joel Negin
who co-authored the Lowy Institute report titled, Shared challenges and
solution: Australia's unique contribution to the future of African development.
Mr Negin told the Committee that the Australian post in Mauritius
was not a viable diplomatic option to serve Francophone Africa. It was situated
off the east coast of Africa and he did not consider the country as
representative of the other French-speaking African countries. Mr Negin added:
The High Commissioners or ex-High Commissioners I have spoken
to from Ghana or Nigeria do not manage to get to the French-speaking West
African countries particularly often. That is certainly a blind spot and a
weakness, especially as Australian mining and other business groups are
involved in French West Africa. … Senegal is a country where a lot of high
commissions and embassies are located. That would also provide an opportunity
for representation in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
When asked for its view, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
suggested there should be a cost benefit analysis of citing a post in
Mozambique and Guinea because of the amount of Australian investment in those
The Committee sought from DFAT the approximate costs of opening and
operating an embassy in an African country. DFAT advised that based on the most
recent experience and assuming the post would comprise 'four Australian-based
and nine locally engaged staff', and that the costs would include setting up an
interim embassy and then a permanent embassy, the cost of a typical embassy:
… could be in the order of $36 million over four years ($12
million staff costs, $8 million operating costs, and $60 million capital
A less costly alternative to the opening of diplomatic posts was raised
by Mr Sibraa who suggested that Australia should put in place honorary consuls
wherever possible. He reported that when honorary consuls were created in
Mozambique and Angola they were both 'particularly successful.'
Boosting staff at Australian posts
Several witnesses suggested that the numbers of Australian-based staff
in Australian posts should be increased with French speakers.
Mr Sibraa told the Committee that Australia could 'beef up existing
posts in West Africa with French-speaking diplomats, as has happened in the
past.' Professor Ware was more
specific—in addition to a new post in Addis Ababa, she suggested two more
French speaking diplomats be posted to Ghana or Nigeria tasked with dealing
with Francophone Africa.
Professor Hawker agreed with strengthening existing posts, but did not
support opening new embassies:
I actually think, on mature reflection, that before hastening
into further, new locations we should really be augmenting and strengthening
what we have got, because our coverage has been attenuated. There have been
some recent improvements, I admit, but these are small posts in Africa. … They
are covering enormous areas. Look at what Kenya is doing.
I think it is better to strengthen them than try to open in Ethiopia …
Australia’s diplomatic representation on the African continent is
significantly less than our major trading partners, United States, China,
Japan, UK and the EU. Further Canada, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia all
have substantially more, whilst Thailand and Vietnam have comparable
Whilst the importance of Africa and African issues internationally have
increased over the past 25 years, Australia’s diplomatic presence has decreased
from 12 posts to 8 in the same period. (See paragraph 2.5).
Currently each of our High Commissions/Embassies, except for the
recently opened embassy in Addis Ababa, represent between 4 and 11 countries.
This is substantially more than occurs in other regions of the world.
The Committee notes that our diplomatic presence is concentrated in
southern and eastern Africa and the former British colonies. There is a
considerable gap in Francophone and Lusophone Africa.
Australia relies on Canada to represent our interests in 10 of the Francophone
countries. The Committee believes that this may no longer be the best strategy
especially given the increasing interest that Australia has in such countries
(particularly mining) and the relatively high number of DFAT staff with French
The Committee agrees with comments that opening new diplomatic posts in
Africa demonstrates a commitment to the continent and provides valuable
assistance to Australian companies investing in and trading with African
The Committee is pleased that the Government has re-opened the
Australian embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is the location of the
headquarters of the AU and diplomatic representation from many other countries
both from within Africa and the rest of the world. The Committee notes that
there are 88 embassies in Addis Ababa, of which 54 are from countries outside
Opening an additional post in a French speaking west African country
would seem to the Committee to be the next step. In this regard, the Committee
recognises the fiscal constraints faced by the Government so any new post
should only be opened after serious consideration. In coming to this view, the Committee
recognises that there are competing demands for increased diplomatic
representation in other regions particularly eastern Europe and Latin America.
The Committee notes the recent review by its Foreign Affairs
Sub-Committee of DFAT’s Annual Report 2009–10 and the proposal by
the Sub-Committee for a broad–ranging inquiry into Australia’s diplomatic
In the immediate term, the Government should increase the number of
French-speaking Australian-based staff at its posts serving Francophone Africa.
As well, the Committee believes the creation of honorary consuls to be a
cost-effective way to boost Australia’s presence and considers the number
should be increased from the current seven.
The Committee Delegation noted during its visit to Africa that embassy
staff in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Ethiopia face serious constraints
due to inadequate accommodation. Consideration should be given to improving the
standard of accommodation at these posts, especially if Australian
representation is to be increased.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should undertake
a comprehensive review of Australia’s diplomatic representation in Africa
with a view to opening an additional post in Francophone Africa.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should, pending
the implementation of Recommendation 1, increase the number of
Australia-based French speaking diplomatic staff in its West African High
Commissions. They should have specific responsibility for covering
Australia's interests in Francophone West African countries.
As a short to medium term measure, the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade should increase the number of honorary consuls appointed to
represent Australia in African countries.
The Commonwealth Parliament facilitates inter-Parliamentary links
through supporting delegation visits from overseas parliaments and Australian
parliamentary delegations travelling abroad. It also supports the attendance of
Australian parliamentarians at the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) and
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conferences.
In the 42nd Parliament there were:
- 13 incoming
delegations from Africa; and
- 13 outgoing
Commonwealth related meetings;
- 4 IPU
related meetings; and
- Egypt and
In the 43rd Parliament, to May 2011 there were:
- 1 incoming delegation
from Malawi; and
- 2 outgoing
Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference; and
recent Committee Delegation's visit to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and
The value of these visits was expressed by the Nigerian High
Commissioner who advised the Committee that the visits afforded:
… Nigeria's Parliamentarians and top government policy makers
the opportunity to learn or draw from Australia's best Parliamentary and
law-making processes and practices with a view to improving and enriching
Nigeria's democratic processes, governance, transparency and public
It was suggested by the Kenyan High Commissioner, however, that the
Australian Parliament could do more to establish direct links with African
The Kenyan Parliament, for instance, is undergoing reforms
and the current focus is to strengthen the capacity of its personnel and
modernise its resource base; library, and live coverage of proceedings. In
addition, the new draft constitution of Kenya proposes the establishment of a
two-tier parliament. This provides an avenue for further cooperation and
sharing of experiences with the Australian Parliament.
A further suggestion from the South African High Commissioner was that
Australia could assist the Pan African Parliament. The institution was 'in its
infancy and could play an important role in good governance, peace and
stability on the African continent in the future.'
Australia also has multilateral links with African countries through the
IPU and CPA, but evidence to the inquiry suggests this link is becoming less
effective because of the tendency for the organisations to move towards non-consensus
decision making, and block voting.
The Australian Parliament has 89 parliamentary friendship groups with
other countries, 8 of which are in Africa.
During its visit to Ghana the Committee Delegation met with the Second
Deputy Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament, and members of the Ghanaian Select
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. The Ghanaian Members of
Parliament were keen to establish an Australia-Ghana Parliamentary Friendship
It is clear to the Committee that while there is a reasonable number of
incoming delegations from a broad range of African countries there is a dearth
of Australian delegations visiting African countries. Apart from this Committee
Delegation’s recent visit, since 2004 there have been just two outgoing
bilateral delegations to sub-Saharan countries—to Kenya and Mozambique in 2004;
and to Rwanda and Tanzania in 2009. Attendance at CPA and IPU meetings, while
facilitating contact with African nations, does not permit the in-depth interaction
at the various levels of government that a bilateral visit to a particular
Parliamentary friendship groups are an effective process for
establishing personal links between parliamentarians. The Committee believes
there should be a parliamentary friendship group with Ghana.
The Committee notes that processes are under way within the Parliament
to establish an Australia-Africa Parliamentary Friendship Group. It is hoped
this will be the conduit for increased interaction between Australian
parliamentarians and African parliamentarians, diplomats and others with an
interest in Africa from across the spectrum of business, academia, and civil
society, including African migrant communities in Australia and NGOs that have
significant operations in Africa.
The Government should increase the number of Australian
parliamentary delegations to specific African countries particularly to those
with increasing significance to Australia.
Government to government links can occur at different levels including:
- bilateral treaties
and memorandum of understanding (MoU);
- engagement in
- visits by overseas
and Australian government ministers; and
- links at government
Treaties and memoranda of understanding
The Australian Government has few treaty level agreements or MoUs with
African countries. Those that exist include:
- A treaty-level Agreement
on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Government of the
Republic of South Africa and the Government of Australia, signed in 2006.
This has led to a Program of Cooperation, signed in 2009.
- A Search and Rescue
(SAR) Arrangement with South Africa covering maritime and aviation SAR.
- Air services
arrangements with five African countries: South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt,
Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
- Four MoUs concerning
the live animal trade with Egypt (2), Libya, and Sudan.
In addition, the South African High Commissioner advised the Committee
that there was an MoU between the Queensland Government and the South African
province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Engagement in multilateral forums
The Australian Government engages the countries of Africa through a
number of multilateral forums, including the Commonwealth and its bodies such
as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). Australia also interacts with African
countries through membership of the United Nations.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
CHOGM meets biennially and comprises a membership of 54 Commonwealth
countries, 19 of which are African states. The next CHOGM is in Perth in
The Commonwealth Round Table (CRT) was very supportive of CHOGM,
commenting that it had 'almost made the Commonwealth a progenitor in terms of
modern international summitry' because there was always an attempt to arrive at
a consensus view. There were weaknesses of relying on consensus, but the CRT
added there was 'no vote taken, there [were] no block movements'. Such a style
of meeting was 'being picked up and followed by the G8 and G20, by APEC'—it was
'one of the preferred modes of modern multilateral summitry for leaders to sit
around a table and arrive at a consensus positions and then carry them forward
Not only is CHOGM a meeting of governments, the CRT told the Committee,
but it is also a catalyst for a host of side meetings:
In fact, one of the real problems for those associated with
organising CHOGMs these days is handling all that happens on the periphery of
CHOGMs in addition to the summits themselves.
As to the African content, … the numbers of African
representations to all of those peripheral meetings, which are basically
cultural, educational and advocacy around the Commonwealth for civil society
groups, are increasing and therefore the issues are becoming more advanced.
Also occurring at CHOGM will be three parallel forums—business, people,
and youth. The business forum will provide the opportunity for meetings between
business leaders and African ministers and officials.
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was established at the
1995 CHOGM in New Zealand to deal with:
… 'serious or persistent violations' of the principles
contained in the 1991 Harare Declaration. In this Declaration, Heads of
Government reaffirmed their commitment to work 'with renewed vigour' to protect
and promote 'the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth'.
CMAG assesses 'the nature of any infringement of the Commonwealth's
political values and [can] recommend measures for collective action from member
CMAG is convened by the Commonwealth Secretary-General and comprises
representatives of the Commonwealth's Chairperson-in-Office, and a rotating
group of Foreign Ministers from eight countries.' CMAG is reconstituted at
every CHOGM and 'Ministers generally serve two terms.'
The group is unique among international organisations because it has the
authority to suspend a member country.
Representation at the United Nations
During the inquiry it was suggested to the Committee that Australia's
refocusing on Africa was in part motivated by the seeking of African support
for Australia's bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
The South African High Commission commented that, while Australia’s
re-engagement with Africa was welcome, there was:
... a lingering sense among some that the re-engagement with
Africa is fuelled primarily by a desire to secure the African vote for its
2013/14 candidature for the non-permanent seat on the Security Council ...
Mr Negin told the Committee that:
There has been a lot of
criticism in the media ... suggesting that the only or main reason for
engagement with Africa is to win Security Council votes. Firstly, I think the
tone of that question, to begin with, is not one I am particularly fond of: to
suggest that throwing what is a tiny amount of money to a few African countries
will automatically sway their votes, as if there are no critical analytic
diplomatic communities in those countries.
Furthermore, when it came to such an approach being effective, Mr Negin
... if we think that providing
additional aid to Africa is going to be the swaying factor, I think we are
doing quite a bad job of it. Even if we just look at the basic figures, in OECD
data on overseas development assistance, in 2008 Australia gave $80 million to
Africa in ODA. Our competitors were the immense powers of Luxembourg and
Finland. Luxembourg gave $137 million and Finland gave $262 million. So, if we
are providing aid to Africa only to win Security Council seats, we have not
done our homework and we are not even giving enough to beat Luxembourg.
The Hon. Kerry Sibraa noted that previous bids for a Security Council
seat were not helped by the lack of Australian interest in Africa. He added
that Australia's motivation will be clarified after the decision on the bid is
handed down in 2012:
After this current Security
Council campaign is over, if we do not continue on, that is exactly how we will
be seen. … our commitment has to stay or else we will be perceived as just
running for a Security Council seat.
The Committee is of the firm view that Australia’s increased interest in
Africa is not motivated by its seeking a seat on the UN Security Council.
Rather, it is motivated by a commitment to contribute to the development of the
continent including through trade and investment, education and research links,
and achieving progress towards the MDGs. As Mr Negin noted, if the aim was to
buy a place through the aid dollar, that strategy would be ineffective. The
Committee considers Australia has a long-term commitment to the continent.
Meetings involving heads of state and government ministers
DFAT advised that in 2009 the following meetings had occurred at head of
state and government minister level:
- January—the Foreign
Minister had addressed the AU Summit meeting in Addis Ababa;
- February—the Defence
Minister visited the AU Headquarters and met with his Ugandan counterpart,
senior AU representatives, and African ambassadors to the AU;
Governor General visited 10 countries in Africa;
- July—the Foreign
Minister met with African counterparts at the Summit of the Non-Aligned
- September—the Foreign
Minister met with African counterparts at the UN General Assembly;
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance visited Kenya,
Malawi, South Africa, and Uganda; and
- November—the Foreign
Minister met with African counterparts at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers'
In addition, in 2009 the Foreign Ministers for Botswana, Kenya,
Mozambique, Rwanda, and Tanzania visited Australia.
In 2010 the meetings were:
- January—the Foreign
Minister visited Botswana and South Africa;
- January—the Trade Minister
attended the Mining Indaba Conference in South Africa meeting ministers from
eight African countries;
- June—the Sports
Minister attended the football World Cup in South Africa;
- June—the Environment
Minister attended the International Whaling Commission Conference in Morocco;
- December—the Foreign
Minister visited Egypt.
In 2011 the meetings were:
- January—the Foreign
Minister visited Ethiopia and also attended the Executive Council meeting of
the EU Summit;
- February—the Foreign
Minister attended the UN Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Global
Foreign Minister visited Egypt; and
- March—the Foreign
Minister visited Tunisia.
Links at officials level
The Committee has received information from Australian Government
agencies on the links they have at officials level with various African
nations. These are either bilateral or multilateral due to common membership of
multilateral organisations. The links described to the Committee were:
- Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry:
membership with African countries on the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the
Indian Ocean Rim—Association for Regional Cooperation;
- Department of
of training to select African Forces and AU personnel;
opportunities offered under the Defence Cooperation Program to Botswana, Kenya,
South Africa, and Uganda;
of a Defence Attaché to the AU; and
of an officer to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a maritime
- Department of
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations:
- meeting a
delegation from Ethiopian Ministry of Education in 2008;
- meeting a
delegation from the Botswana Education Hub in 2009 which was interested in
developing Botswana into an education hub in the region;
in 2010 a delegation from the South African Department of Education responsible
for establishing a National Education Evaluation Unit; and
membership with African countries of the International Labour Organisation;
- Department of
Immigration and Citizenship:
- hosting a
visit in 2009 by a South African delegation to discuss Australia's Advance
Passenger Processing System;
with Botswana, Mauritius and North African countries on immigration and visa issues;
on a rotating basis the thrice yearly Immigration Liaison Kenya meeting
involving Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya;
- hosting a
study tour by a Rwandan Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration
senior official with the aim of Rwandan capacity building; and
with African countries and diplomatic posts in Australia in order to verify the
travel documents of Africans visiting Australia;
- Department of
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government:
Civil Aviation Organisation—common membership alongside seven African states on
the 36 member permanent Council;
Maritime Organisation—occasional technical cooperation with some African
countries through the Indian Ocean MoU; and a search and rescue arrangement
with South Africa; and
- advice to
the South African Bureau of Standards on Australia's vehicle regulation and
Road Vehicle Certification System;,
- Department of
Innovation Industry, Science and Research:
Measurement Institute—links with the South African National Metrology
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation—links with the South African
Nuclear Energy Corporation; and
Australia—links with the South African Companies and Intellectual Property
- Department of
Resources, Energy and Tourism:
membership with African countries of the International Energy Agency,
International Renewable Energy Agency, and the Global Carbon Capture and
Storage Institute; and
membership with African countries of the UN World Tourism Organisation.
- Australian Centre for
International Agricultural Research
- conducts research with bilateral and multilateral partners, such
as the International Livestock Research Institute, the World Agroforestry Centre,
the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the International Crops
Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, and the International Maize and
Wheat Improvement Centre.
In addition, the submission from the Government of Western Australia detailed
links between the West Australian Museum and the Natal Museum and South African
Institute of Aquatic Biology.
Finally, Australian officials regularly meet their African counterparts
at the Africa Downunder Conference held annually in Perth, and the Mining
Indaba conference held annually in South Africa.