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

How we are helping

2015-16 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$117.2 million

2016-17 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$31.8 million

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$89.5 million

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $89.5 million in total Official Development Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016-17. 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 program to Africa is its substantial but targeted Australia Awards 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 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) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 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.

Empower women and girls and improve gender equality outcomes

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

We will also provide advocacy and support for gender equality in negotiations with Africa partners.

Extractives for growth

Australian aid is supporting enabling environments to attract and retain investment. We are building skills to regulate and manage the extractives sector to give business increased certainty, while improving mining revenue management and overall governance. Our assistance draws on Australia’s highly relevant expertise, which we then share with our African partners. We are also partnering with governments, industry and communities to ensure the benefits of mining are shared equitably.

Extractives for growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

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), the Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES) and Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID).

Engaging with civil society in Sub-Saharan Africa

Our results

  • In 2015, 384 Australia Awards Scholarships were provided to African students (46 per cent to women).
  • More than 170,000 poor men and women increased their incomes and over 90,000 increased their access to financial services through Australia’s support for the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF).
  • Almost 16,000 poor men and women were supported to adopt innovative agricultural and fisheries practices which enhanced their livelihoods through Australia’s Improving Agricultural Productivity Program.
  • Almost 20,000 men and women increased their access to safe drinking water and 15,000 increased their access to basic sanitation services through Australia’s Sustainable Water and Sanitation Services for Africa (SWaSSA) Program in Mozambique.
  • An estimated 98,000 poor men and women were able to access social transfers such as cash and food; and more than 257,000 people were able to increases their access to financial services through Australia’s support for the Kenya Food Security and Community Resilience Program.
  • Through the Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme, over 1,000,000 people benefitted from the program; 500,000 of the beneficiaries were women and girls.

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 have 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 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 Africa aid program, offering around 300 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 civil society programs. While DFAT will not be investing in major new 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 East and Southern Africa.


Last Updated: 7 October 2016
Two women standing in a field, talking and holding a book
Beth Wanjero talks to an adviser from the sustainable development initiative about points raised in the training manual relating to her farm near Gilgil, Kenya (credit: DFAT).
Nejjemba Teopista, farmer of Kayunga and farmer's group animator, holding her hoe after working in a communal garden at Kangulumira where food is grown to feed the poor and sick
Nejjemba Teopista, farmer of Kayunga and farmer's group animator, holding her hoe after working in a communal garden at Kangulumira where food is grown to feed the poor and sick (credit: Sean Sprague, CARITAS).