Overview of Australia’s aid program to Sub-Saharan Africa

How we are helping

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$136.6 million

2017-18 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$31.8 million

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$108.2 million

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $108.2 million in total Official Development Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017-18. This will include an estimated $31.8 million in bilateral funding to the Africa Program managed by DFAT.

Australia has a clear national interest in the security, stability and prosperity of Sub-Saharan Africa. African countries are important in global economic and political terms, including in relation to addressing economic growth, trade liberalisation, agricultural productivity and food security and trans-national crime. Many African economies are growing, presenting increasing opportunities for trade and investment-led development gains. Australia is developing strong economic partnerships with African states, including through targeted development assistance.

Sub Saharan Africa is a diverse region: the development context and challenges faced differ dramatically between the 49 countries. However, many of the key constraints to economic growth are shared across the continent, including: skills shortages; poor enabling environments for business and governance; food insecurity and low agricultural productivity; humanitarian crises; and gender and other inequalities. Africa is at the bottom of almost every knowledge economy indicator, and many of its tertiary education systems are not capable of meeting the immediate skill needs or supporting sustained productivity-led growth. These skill shortages are particularly acute at the professional levels. In the public sector, these skill deficits hinder the capacity of governments to deliver services, support sustained growth and address development challenges.

Australia's aid contribution to Sub-Saharan Africa is carefully targeted for greatest impact. Australian aid has the capacity to make a difference and be recognised if we target sectors where Australian experience and knowledge visibly adds value; concentrate our efforts in countries where we can also deepen our engagement; and continue to be a flexible and responsive donor within our chosen areas of expertise. Australia has particular expertise and experience to offer in human capacity building and the agriculture and extractive sectors, which will be shared through Australia Awards.

Australia Awards

Australia's flagship aid investment to Africa is a substantial but targeted Australia Awards Scholarship program. Australia Awards promote and support Australian development and economic diplomacy objectives in Sub-Saharan Africa by contributing to African leadership and human capacity development in the areas of extractives, agricultural productivity and public policy. The program helps to address some of the key constraints to economic growth in Africa including skills shortages in the agricultural and extractives sectors, gender inequality, governance and the enabling environment for investment.

In addition to building critical skills and knowledge, Australia Awards foster an engaged and influential network of leaders, reformers and advocates, and help promote valuable people-to-people links between Australia and Africa.

Australia Awards in Sub-Saharan Africa

Agricultural productivity

Australia is supporting market development to promote growth and improve livelihoods. Our program focuses on better research and innovative technology adoption, on boosting private sector activities and improving access to key services to enhance agricultural productivity and food security. By sharing its highly relevant technical, research and agri-business expertise, including through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Australia is supporting practical solutions to enhanced agricultural productivity and growth.

Agricultural productivity assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa

Humanitarian assistance

Working with effective humanitarian partners, Australia provides assistance to communities in Africa affected by humanitarian crises. We will continue to focus our humanitarian assistance on responding to urgent humanitarian needs, including protection, food security and nutrition. The disproportionate impact of conflict and disasters on women and girls is of utmost concern and Australia will advocate for better monitoring of gender and protection issues. Australia will advance the interests of affected populations and influence policy decisions in line with best-practice humanitarian principles.

Empowering women and girls and improving gender equality outcomes

Gender equality is an important right and a powerful tool for development, economic growth, and stability. The Australian aid program focuses on enhancing women's economic participation and voices in decision making, particularly in the agriculture and extractive sectors. We aim for gender equality in access to our flagship Australia Awards aid program to Sub-Saharan Africa. Our Women in Leadership Network is continuing to provide ongoing professional development support to female awardees and alumni.

We also provide advocacy and support for gender equality in all our negotiations with African partners.

Civil society engagement

Australia is engaging with non-government organisations (NGOs) to provide community based interventions to poor and marginalised people in Sub-Saharan Africa. NGOs are key development partners, offering a unique depth of experience, skills and community awareness to the development sector. Support to civil society in Africa is primarily delivered through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), the Direct Aid Program (DAP), and Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID).

Engaging with civil society in Sub-Saharan Africa

Our results

  • In 2017, 440 Australia Awards scholarship recipients from Africa will study with Australian institutions (48 per cent to women).
  • There are around 6,000 Australia Awards Alumni in Africa, contributing to development and prosperity in their countries.
  • Ninety-eight per cent of Alumni surveyed in 2015 reported that they were applying their Award acquired learning to their job, demonstrating the continued effective implementation of the Australia Awards program to Africa.
  • In 2016-17 our humanitarian support provided life-saving assistance to more than 758,000 vulnerable men, women and children in 13 countries
  • Australia delivered improved agricultural productivity by conducting research into food security and farming techniques that increased crop yields and benefitted the livelihoods of African farmers. More than seven million people in Africa had improved access to food security, better health outcomes and better water and sanitation through the work of 28 NGOs funded under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) in 2015-16.

Our changing program

Our changing aid program in Sub- Saharan Africa reflects the priority areas of the Australian Government and our partner African countries. Following the release of the 2015-16 aid budget and consultations with program partners, we consolidated investments to focus on four main areas – leadership and human capacity development; agricultural productivity; humanitarian assistance; and women’s empowerment and gender equality. We will continue to work predominantly in Eastern and Southern Africa where we have historical program ties and presence, long-term Australian NGO experience, economic and security interests and diaspora links. This is also consistent with the Indo-Pacific focus of the aid program.

Australia Awards will form the flagship of the African aid program, offering around 450 Awards annually. DFAT is transitioning out of major bilateral and sub-regional investments in food security, agriculture, and water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Australia’s support for these sectors will largely continue through global programs. While DFAT will not be investing in new major agricultural productivity programs, a range of our fully funded agriculture investments will continue implementation over the coming years. This includes Australia’s support to the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) and ACIAR’s investments in Eastern and Southern Africa.


See caption below
Minister Bishop with Australia Awards Alumni Ms Alice Gihiomi (Kenya) and Mr Elite Mhone (Zambia) at the Australia-Africa Week Conference in Perth, September 2017. Credit: Mr Bryan Charlton

Last Updated: 12 October 2017