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

How we are helping

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$137.3 million

2018-19 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$31.8 million

2018-19 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$121.1 million

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $121.1 million in total Official Development Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018-19. This will include an estimated $31.8 million in bilateral funding to the Africa Program managed by DFAT.

Australia's funding to Africa supports the Foreign Policy White Paper agenda to broaden our international influence in support of stability, prosperity and cooperation to address global challenges. Our program builds people-to-people links, supports economic engagement and promotes gender equality.

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 engagementand Australia has particular expertise and experience to offer in human capacity building and the agriculture and extractive sectors, which is shared through Australia Awards.

Australia Awards

Australia Awards – Africa program is a targeted and enduring flagship aid investment to Africa. Australia Awards - Africa extends the knowledge, skills and professional development of up to 500 mid-level professionals annually from public, private and civil society organisations. The program achieves those outcomes through Masters scholarships, Short Courses and Fellowships, facilitated through Australia's globally recognised higher education sector and Australian expertise across key sectors including: extractives, agriculture and public policy.

By contributing to African leadership and human capacity development in these fields, Australia Awards are also helping to address Australia's national interest in the security, stability and prosperity of Sub-Saharan Africa. The fast growing population of the Sub-Saharan Africa region presents increasing opportunities for trade and investment-led development gains. African countries are active members of global political and trade organisations and are important partners in addressing global issues such as economic growth, trade liberalisation, agricultural productivity and food security, trans-national crime and counter-terrorism. The social and academic networks scholars develop with Australians and Australian institutions contribute to considerable goodwill towards Australia, as well as helping facilitate our economic and public diplomacy initiatives and supporting people-to-people links.

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 it's 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

Promoting gender equality is one of the priorities identified in the Foreign Policy White Paper. Gender rights are a powerful tool for development, economic growth, and stability. The sub-Saharan Africa  program focuses on enhancing women's economic participation and voices in decision making, particularly in the agriculture and extractive sectors. We aim for gender parity of  access to theAustralia Awards-Africa program and close to 50 per cent of our awardees are women. The  Women in Leadership Network provides ongoing professional development support to female awardees on their return to their home countries.  The alumni are active supporters of development in their communities. The focus of Australian aid, particularly through Australia Awards-Africa, is to promote women's access to higher skilled jobs and inclusive economic growth.  

We support and advocate 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

Information on volunteers in Africa

Our results

  • In 2017 there were 440 Australia Awards-Africa scholarship recipients who attended Australian institutions (48 per cent to women).
  • Australia Awards Alumni in Africa contribute to development and prosperity in their countries.
  • The 2017 Australia Awards – Africa Outcomes Study confirmed that once alumni return home: 45% of respondents are using professional networks to positively influence business, development opportunities and policy; 99% consider the knowledge and skills gained on Award are relevant to their work; and 98% are promoting Australian education, science, research and innovation.
  • 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 six million people in Africa had improved access to food security, better health outcomes and better water and sanitation through the work of 28 Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) funded under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) in 2016-17.

Strategic direction

Our investments align with the Foreign Policy White Paper focusing on four main areas – leadership and human capacity development; agricultural productivity; humanitarian assistance; and women's empowerment and gender equality. We work predominantly in Eastern and Southern Africa where we have historical program ties and relationship as well as 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 is the flagship of the African aid program, offering upto 500 Awards annually. Australia Awards primarily focus in areas where Australia has expertise including good governance and capacity building in the agriculture, extractives and public policy sectors. Australia's support for food security, agriculture, and water, sanitation and hygiene programs is provided through our significant contributions to  multilateral organisationsdelivering programs in Africa. Australia supports agricultural programs in Eastern and Southern Africa through ACIAR and contributions to the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). Our investments in sub-Saharan Africa contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth).

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: 8 May 2018
Inspired from a young age to improve health conditions in her community, Dr Anne Mwangi’s Australia Awards scholarship gave her the tools to work on the prevention of mother-child transmissions of HIV through public health in Kenya.
Stating that education is the only vaccine to get rid of poverty, Harriet Sianjibu-Miyato utilised her Australia Awards scholarship to learn how to uplift and inspire children as an educational leader in Zambia.