Africa Talks: Australia’s Relationship to Africa

Africa Talks: Australia's Relationship to Africa

The relationship between Australia and Africa is anything but straightforward. While Australia has diplomatic ties with every African state, the continent occupies a sometimes inscrutable position in our foreign policy priorities. For Australia, Africa represents both obligation and opportunity.

Earlier this year, Australia’s foreign aid to Africa was reduced by 70 percent, leading World Vision’s Tim Costello to argue that Australia has effectively abandoned the continent. Yet many regard Africa as the next frontier of the global economy, and Australia’s business and investment interests in Africa are worth tens of billions of dollars. It’s not just about the resources sector, either – Australian involvement in African economies is increasingly reaching into other areas including education, health and the arts.

At a time when China and the US are expanding their involvement and interest in Africa, where does Australia sit? What’s the nature and extent of investment and trade (not to mention private enterprise) in Africa – and why are Australian businesses comparatively slow to invest in African prospects?

Africa Talks host Santilla Chingaipe speaks with Roger Phillips and Andrew Barnes about the opportunities and questions of Australia’s relationship with Africa.

Who?

Portrait of Santilla Chingaipe

Santilla Chingaipe

‘Celebrities and corporations spew forth “smash the patriarchy” and benefit financially from that. You want to talk about boards? I want to talk about how some women can’t get a job.’

Santilla Chingaipe is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. Chingaipe created and hosted the Africa Talks series in partnership with the Wheeler Centre, which explored perceptions about African-Australian identity, representation and politics. She also curated Australia’s first all-day, anti-racism festival, Not Racist, But.... Her work explores contemporary migration, cultural identities and politics. She reports regularly for the Saturday Paper and is a member of the federal government’s advisory group on Australia-Africa relations.

Portrait of Roger Phillips

Roger Phillips

Roger Phillips is the Vice President of the Australia Africa Business Council (VIC), an organisation that aims to assist and facilitate cross-cultural learning in the form of fair commerce and trade. He is the co-founder of two start-up businesses based out of Lagos, Nigeria.

Portrait of Andrew Barnes

Andrew Barnes

Andrew Barnes is Director of the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Section in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). As well as managing Australia’s bilateral relationships with the countries of Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, Andrew’s section has responsibility for the management of DFAT’s Extractives Program in Africa.