Conclusions and recommendations
While the terms of reference for this inquiry cover Africa in its
totality, at the outset, the committee wishes to recognise the key point that Africa
is a continent and not a country. Its countries have a great deal of diversity
in geography, history, culture, economic capacity and markets.
The African continent is in the midst of significant economic,
technological and population growth and this inquiry has provided the
opportunity to revisit current settings to ensure that Australia is in the best
possible position to take advantage of these changes for trade and investment
and contribute skills to facilitate this development.
While noting the already well-developed relationships in the mining
industry, demographic, economic and technological changes will provide other
opportunities for expansion of the relationship with Africa.
Australia is well-positioned to use its expertise in a range of sectors
to contribute to development outcomes in many African countries. Our knowledge
and skills in area such as agriculture, the mining sector, education, and
technology are highly regarded, and this knowledge will be in high demand in a
growing and developing Africa.
The committee notes that overall it will be important for the Australian
Government to ensure Australian businesses have broad access to African
markets, and that a strong mutual understanding of the importance of the
Australia-Africa relationship is cultivated on both sides.
Business and trade
Emerging free trade area
The emerging African Continental Free Trade Area would establish one of
the largest free trade areas in the world and provide opportunities for foreign
companies and investors. The committee was pleased to hear that DFAT is
actively monitoring these developments. Although it may take some time to come
into effect the committee is of the view that Australia should actively
position itself to take advantage of it. Preliminary steps should be taken to
ensure that Australian companies operating in, or seeking to enter, African
markets are kept informed of the benefits that this agreement will provide in
terms of ease of business and enhanced market access.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to
actively monitor the emerging Continental Free Trade Area with a view to best
position Australia to take advantage of it when it comes into force and ensure
that businesses and the public are kept informed of the benefits of this
In the meantime the committee notes a number of existing markets and
mechanisms Australian companies can take advantage of such as established
offices in nearby Gulf Cooperation Council which simplify logistics and time
zone issues. Also a number of African countries including Mauritius and Tunisia
are actively positioning themselves as hubs for the African region providing
access to markets and incentives to engage.
Aside from providing commercial opportunities, projects can often
support multiple objectives including meeting sustainable development goals.
The committee is particularly attracted to the idea of packaging mining work
and infrastructure with renewable energy and agriculture/water management
skills to assist communities in an inclusive way to leave employment
opportunities well beyond the life of the mines.
The committee was particularly impressed with the cooperative work
already underway by Business for Development, Base Resources and Cotton On
Group where communities surrounding the Base mine were provided with the
training and resources to begin farming cotton. Not only does this assist the
farmers with employment opportunities but it provides a secure, sustainable and
transparent supply chain which is being sought by Australian customers.
Australian companies are well established in the mining industry in
Africa and it is a significant market for Australian mining, equipment,
technology and services (METS). Mining and METS providers will continue to be a
dominant Australian sector investing in Africa, with Australia enjoying a good
reputation for technical expertise and mining governance.
A number of drivers such as shifting demographics, technological
innovation, the growth of new trade routes and increasing urbanisation present
other opportunities for Australian businesses.
Along with increasing political and economic stability, these
demographic and social changes have been termed the 'rise of Africa' or 'Africa
rising'. As put by the Export Council of Australia 'if Australian businesses
don't get a foot in the door, someone else will'.
The committee heard about current and future commercial opportunities in
areas such as education, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure and
technology. Australia is well placed with skills, resources and expertise to
capitalise on these and other business opportunities.
The committee heard evidence from a number of witnesses who indicated
that Australian companies with expertise across a range of sectors would be
well positioned to export their knowledge and capabilities to African
The committee recognises that many of these commercial opportunities
also encompass improving development outcomes and contributing towards
achieving the sustainable development goals which is discussed further below.
The committee notes that promotion of current and emerging commercial
opportunities is critical. Government should continue to support engagement
with major forums and events in Africa and Australia that showcase Australian
capabilities and promote new commercial opportunities in the African market. The
committee is pleased to hear that DFAT and Austrade are supporting companies
beyond the mining industry to foster private sector engagement and assist
companies in accessing existing and new markets in Africa.
The committee recommends that Austrade actively monitor and promote
non-extractive trade and investment opportunities in Africa to Australian
The committee supports the Africa Down Under (ADU) conference and was
pleased to hear that it is being expanded to include a broader range of
sectors, including education, universities, science and technology. To further
this integration the committee also supports the coordination with
Australia-Africa Week. Greater participation of the private sector from other
related business sectors in Australia-Africa Week and ADU and other relevant
conferences should be encouraged.
The committee recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
work with organisers of major promotional events and conferences, such as
Australia-Africa Week, to facilitate greater participation of the private
sector from industries other than mining.
Role of government
The committee notes that Australia currently has diplomatic missions in
nine African countries, and maintains Austrade offices in five countries.
Australia also has honorary consuls in a further 13 African countries.
The committee was pleased to hear of the positive reports from companies
of assistance from DFAT and Austrade staff in Africa to establish relationships
in country and assist with projects. While the committee heard enthusiasm for a
greater diplomatic footprint it notes that establishing a permanent mission
overseas is resource intensive. The committee notes the 2011 recommendation by
the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to review
diplomatic representation in Africa with a view to opening an additional post
in Francophone Africa. The committee notes the government's acceptance of the
recommendation and the opening of the Australian Embassy in Rabat, Morocco in
The committee was interested to hear that DFAT is exploring new models
of operation to enable them to expand their diplomatic footprint such as pop up
posts trialled in Tallinn, Estonia. This offers a more flexible, lower-cost
alternative to a traditional chancery while still delivering key diplomatic
services. The committee is of the view that Africa would lend itself well to
such an approach which would assist Australian companies to take advantage of
new commercial opportunities, contribute to Australia being on the front foot
with the emerging Continental Free Trade Area and also facilitate greater
engagement of African people and businesses with Australia. It is the view of
the committee that consideration should be given to expand the pop up post
trialled in Estonia to locations in Africa. Building on that initiative, the
committee recognises there is benefit in the investigation of other innovative
The committee recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
review Australia's diplomatic representation in Africa with a view to applying
new methods of operation.
The committee heard that the location of missions is decided by
consideration of a range of factors including connectivity, and rates of
Australian tourism to that area. The committee suggests that greater
consideration could be given to Austrade market data in order to establish
future African missions in areas of high, or potentially high, commercial
Ministerial and parliamentary
The committee notes the value of ministerial representation to send a
strong message of commitment to further developing and strengthening Australia's
trade and investment with Africa, as well as facilitating the development of
new relationships. While acknowledging the demands on ministers' time,
opportunities to travel to the countries of Africa, particularly trade
delegations, should be further explored in order to increase the number of
Australian ministerial visits undertaken each year. The numbers of
parliamentary visits could also be increased. Reciprocally, Australia should
encourage African ministerial and parliamentary visits to Australia.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government explore
opportunities to increase the number of Australian ministerial and
parliamentary visits to Africa.
Expanding the role of AGAAR
The Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations (AGAAR), since its
establishment in 2015, has provided advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
regarding the Australia-Africa relationship.
The committee welcomes the establishment of AGAAR and the release of a
strategy paper in 2016. However, there is no response to the recommendations
contained in the strategy paper on the website. AAGAR and DFAT were separately asked
about how many of the recommendations have been agreed and progressed, however,
the exact status of the recommendations was unclear.
The committee agrees with the suggestions that AGAAR, in order to make
best use of the extensive knowledge and experience of its members, could take
on a greater outward facing role in order to strengthen the relationship with
Africa. The committee notes in the strategy paper that AGAAR is open to
revisiting its role 'once it moves more fully into its work'.
The committee does not wish to be prescriptive in how this occurs,
acknowledging that the AGAAR member themselves would be best placed to review
and determine its future direction.
The committee recommends that, in relation to the Advisory Group on
Australia-Africa Relations (AGAAR):
- the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AGAAR, engaging
in appropriate consultation with stakeholders, review AGAAR's role with a view
to build on its advisory responsibilities to include a more outward facing
function to strengthen the Australia-Africa relationship;
- detail about the work and achievements of AGAAR be included on
the AGAAR website; and
- the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade include a response to
the recommendations contained in the AGAAR strategy paper on its website.
Barriers to trade and investment
The committee heard evidence that Australia's trade and investment
relationship with Africa is currently constrained by a variety of barriers
ranging from sovereign risk and uncertain regulatory frameworks to security and
The committee acknowledges that these barriers are not equal across the
continent, with some African countries, and even regions of countries, posing
greater challenges than others.
Witnesses drew the committee's attention to the poorly regulated
environment in some African countries, and the committee noted the efforts of
the Australian Government, Western Australian Government and private sector
organisations in exporting Australia's robust regulatory frameworks,
particularly in the extractives sector, to assist in strengthening African
governance in these areas.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government give further consideration
to supporting initiatives that strengthen the regulatory and governance
landscape in Africa.
The committee heard of difficulty for some African travellers in obtaining
a business or student visa for Australia. The committee was advised that
business travellers are required to apply annually for a visa and that a
multi-year visa, as is currently available in other countries, would be
advantageous. Lengthy waiting times faced by African travellers in receiving
visas were highlighted as well as difficulty in contacting visa processing
authorities for progress updates.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government review its visa
assessment process for African travellers with a view to minimising processing
times, increasing transparency and to ensure there are no unintended barriers.
The committee notes evidence provided by submitters which highlights
many businesses operating in remote regions of the African continent have people
on the ground and access to information which may provide DFAT greater
visibility and specificity of the security landscape where Australian companies
Given many of the Australian companies which operate throughout Africa
have a footprint in nations such as Canada, the United States and the United
Kingdom, the committee believes more specific and tailored advice should be
developed in partnership with our allies who also have an interest in the
The committee recommends the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade review
their Smartraveller advice platform with a view to providing more tailored and
specific advice to Australian businesses operating on the African continent.
Data collection around Australian mining activity in Africa was raised
as an issue. The committee notes the value of accurate data to guide government
policy decisions as well as plan investment and activities and contribute to
well informed discussion.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consult stakeholders
such as the Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group on ways to improve data
collection regarding Australian mining activity in Africa.
Through submissions to the inquiry and evidence provided by witnesses,
the committee's attention has been drawn to a perceived gap in 'Africa
literacy' in Australia. A lack of understanding or awareness of Africa and its
many cultures, business environments and economic landscapes could restrict
Australia's trade and investment relationship with Africa.
While a number of networks and research groups focusing on
Africa-related issues currently exist in Australian tertiary institutions, the
committee feels that the work of these groups could be more effective with
better coordination in a dedicated Centre for African Studies.
The committee notes the recommendation by the Joint Committee to
establish a Centre for African Studies which was not taken up by the government
at that time. The committee is of the view that, from the evidence received,
this is now wider than just an educational focus. Such a centre or a similar
grouping could assist with better coordination of information on Africa, education
and raising awareness as well as research.
Aside from its research function, this centre may also form a focal
point for broader social engagement with Africa, including engagement with
Australia's African diaspora community.
Such a centre may also provide a forum for the dissemination of current
information on Africa to the Australian community, possibly in collaboration
with African missions in Australia.
Better access to information will benefit all stakeholders and therefore
the committee does not see this as an issue just for the Australian Government
or to be funded solely by the Australian Government. However, it does see a
coordination role for the Australian Government. The committee is attracted to
the idea of the centre but understands that, in a resource constrained
environment, there may be other ways to achieve what is needed. The committee
notes the suggestion that such a centre could be virtual.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation
with a range of stakeholders, explore options for improving Africa literacy, awareness,
engagement, access to information and research.
Aid and the Sustainable Development Goals
The committee notes that Australia has provided aid assistance to
countries in Africa through various channels, and this assistance forms an
important facet of Australia's engagement with many African countries.
The committee also notes that aid needs to be examined in light of the
differences between African countries. While some countries need assistance
with improving food security and the management of water resources, others are
looking for cooperative partnerships to drive commercial opportunities as well
as increase productive capacity.
While acknowledging there is a level of concern over the amount of aid,
the committee believes it is important to also acknowledge that Australia cannot
compete with aid donors such as China on a quantum basis. The committee agrees
that our engagement needs to be in areas where we can leverage unique
Australian capabilities. As an example of this the committee supports the work
of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, funded
through the aid budget, which utilises our skills in agricultural research to
assist developing countries to build capacity. The committee was impressed to
hear about the range of skills and projects underway in Africa resulting in benefits
there and benefits for Australians.
Given the value achieved through the work of ACIAR, the committee is of
the view that, while acknowledging budgetary constraints, consideration should
be given to increasing ACIAR's funding to enable it to build on its work with a
range of international institutions and pan-African associations, national
agricultural research institutes and non-government organisations.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider
increasing Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research's funding
in order to increase research, project and partnership activity in Africa.
The committee also supports partnerships between the government and the
private sector. Witnesses drew the committee's attention to programs such as DFAT's
Business Partnerships Platform (BPP). The committee believes that partnerships
of this kind provide great benefit to both businesses and communities.
The committee notes that DFAT has recently finalised its call for
funding applications through the BPP India Window. This funding round targeted
projects in the agribusiness, energy and resources (including water), and
The committee believes that a region-specific funding round for African
development projects with similar terms of reference would provide important
development benefits for African communities, while assisting Australian
businesses working in relevant sectors to access new markets.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider an
Africa round for Business Partnerships Platform funding for African development
projects delivered through public-private partnerships.
The committee acknowledges that access to energy is a major barrier to
achieving development outcomes in Africa, particularly in terms of meeting the Sustainable
Development Goals. The committee heard that Australian businesses are well
positioned to export extensive expertise in renewable energy and microgrid
systems that are ideally suited to the energy needs of African regions. This
would help to achieve development outcomes in Africa while opening up access to
new markets for Australian businesses.
Contribution of the mining sector
Evidence to the committee also highlighted the potential for
partnerships across industries, for example, mining industries partnering with
renewable energy and others such as water management to deliver employment and
other outcomes beyond the life of the mine for the communities in which they
The committee believes Australian companies operating across the African
continent provide a range of assistance and services to the local communities
in which they operate. In some cases, companies may build infrastructure to
sustain their operations which may be utilised following the cessation of that
company’s activities in the region. For example, a mining operation may
generate excess power or water which could be used to the benefit of the local
community, or that infrastructure could be utilised beyond the commercial life
of the mine where practical.
The committee believes the availability and access of this information
will prove useful to both DFAT and the NGO sector in evaluating the potential
for assistance in particular regions. This information, when used in conjunction
with knowledge transfer in sectors such as agriculture, has the potential to
make a contribution to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in
The committee recommends the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade undertake
a review of Australian mining and Mining, Equipment, Technology and Services (METS)
companies operating on the African continent which undertake engagement and
provide services or assistance to the communities in which they operate.
The committee notes the Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program
for the Mining Industry on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science's
website. Given the importance of, and potential for, the mining industry to
contribute to sustainable development it is important that information such as
this be regularly reviewed to keep it up to date to include developments such
as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The committee recommends that the Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science review its Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the
Mining Industry to ensure it is up-to-date and incorporates information on the
UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The committee acknowledges the work undertaken by the WA Government in
sharing its resources sector development expertise through capacity building
activities for African countries.
The committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Sustainable
Development Goals which will provide the opportunity to explore the Sustainable
Development Goals in more detail.
Through its Australia Awards program, the Australian Government provides
scholarships for African students to pursue postgraduate and short course
education in Australia. The committee understands that strong people-to-people
connections are crucial to further progress Australia's trade and investment
relationship with the countries of Africa, and that Australia Awards alumni are
an important element in building these connections. There are currently in the
order of 6000 Australia Awards alumni across Africa.
As part of its Global Alumni Engagement Strategy 2016-2020, the
Australian Government maintains an alumni portal, Australia Global Alumni,
which allows those who have studied in Australia to register with DFAT. They
are then notified of events and opportunities to remain engaged with Australia
and fellow Australia alumni.
However, at time of reporting, no upcoming events organised through this
platform are taking place in an African country, and no Alumni Ambassadors
listed on the DFAT website are from Africa.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government seek to increase
the visibility of the Australia Global Alumni program among African alumni in
order to formalise alumni networks.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government review its list
of Australia Global Alumni ambassadors with a view to including an Ambassador
Senator Alex Gallacher
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