Africa region brief

The Australian Government shares strong and vibrant partnerships with the countries of Africa and is committed to long-term ties of friendship and cooperation.

Our political, diplomatic, commercial, defence and other ties with African countries have increased substantially over the past decade.

Australian development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa centres on promoting economic growth through investments in the extractives and agriculture sectors and education through the Australia Awards.

Political and diplomatic ties

Australia has diplomatic relations with all African countries. Australia opened a new Embassy in Ethiopia in 2011, which is accredited to the African Union as well as Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Australia has established ties with regional African organisations—we are accredited to the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

We have memorandums of understanding with the African Union Commission, the League of Arab States, Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Comoros, The Gambia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

High-level bilateral meetings between Australian and African leaders and Ministers drive our engagement. Australian Ministers and senior officials have attended annual African Union Summits as well as high-level conferences such as Mining Indaba in South Africa and Australia Down Under in Perth.

Trade and investment

Economic diplomacy is at the core of the Australian Government's international engagement. DFAT is leading the Government's economic diplomacy agenda bringing together Australia's foreign affairs, trade, development and other international economic activities, to deliver greater prosperity for Australia, our region and the world. Australia has a clear national interest in the security, stability and prosperity of Africa.

Australian investment in Africa is thriving, particularly in the resources sector. There are over 200 Australian mining companies with more than 700 projects operating in Africa.

Bilateral merchandise trade with Africa grew to almost $12 billion in 2013, more than double the value in 2009.

For more information on doing business and opportunities in Africa please see the Austrade website.

Development cooperation

More information on development assistance to Sub Saharan Africa.

Australia Awards

Australia is investing in human resource capacity building through the Australia Awards for Africa program—Australia provided around 500 scholarships to Africa in 2014. The long-term Masters-level scholarships are in subject areas that align with the aid program’s focus in Africa, including extractives, agriculture and public policy.

More information on the Australia Awards in sub-Saharan Africa.

Extractives governance

Mining offers African countries an unparalleled opportunity to stimulate growth and reduce poverty. If well managed, the extractives sector can drive innovation, generate revenue to fund critical social services and upgrade productive physical infrastructure, and directly and indirectly create jobs. Our investment in effective governance of the extractives sector is leveraging off Australia’s highly relevant expertise. Our assistance includes:

  • supporting enabling environments to attract and retain investment
  • building skills to regulate and manage the extractives sector to give business increased certainty, while improving mining revenue management and overall governance.

More information on our development work on mining governance.


Australia is investing in the agriculture sector, which plays a key role in Africa’s development in terms of broad-based economic growth, jobs, and poverty reduction. Agriculture supports the livelihoods of 80 per cent of Africans and provides employment for about 60 per cent of the economically active population1. Our programme focuses on better research and innovative technology adoption and on boosting private sector activity through improving the functioning of agricultural value chains and markets. Australia is sharing highly relevant technical, research and agri-business expertise through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). We support market development to promote growth and improve livelihoods across a number of partnerships, including with the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) and global partners through the G20 AgResults Initiative.

A number of other investments complement our focus on the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa including support to the Government of Kenya’s System for Land-Based Emissions in Kenya (SLEEK) initiative (through the Australian Department of Environment) and Hunger Safety NetProgram (in partnership with DFID), as well as an innovative pilot program in northern Kenya working with the private sector to deliver livestock insurancein pastoralist communities.

More information on DFAT’s broader Agriculture and Food Security program

More information on ACIAR’s work in sub-Saharan Africa

Australian NGOs in Africa

The Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES) is a partnership program with ten Australian NGOs and their Africa-based partners. It contributes to poverty reduction in Africa through implementing community-based interventions for poor and marginalised people in Africa in the areas of food security, maternal and child health, water supply, hygiene and sanitation.

AACES targets marginalised communities in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with particular attention to women, children, people with disabilities and people vulnerable to disaster.

AACES also comprises activities to improve and enhance good development practices in Africa, inform development policy engagement. AACES is valued at $83 million over five years (2011–2016).

More information on NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa

Humanitarian assistance

Australia has been responsive to Africa’s humanitarian needs.  DFAT monitors and responds to humanitarian situations based on the needs of people affected, the situation on the ground and our capacity to respond.

In 2013‑14, Australia provided over $31 million in critical humanitarian assistance to emerging and protracted humanitarian crises in sub-Saharan Africa. These crises are multi-faceted, often involving food insecurity, political instability, armed conflict and displacement. Where possible, DFAT links our life-saving assistance to longer-term efforts to build resilience in communities exposed to protracted crises. Australian core contributions to multilateral organisations have also enabled humanitarian programming in Africa by our multilateral partners, including the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More information on DFAT’s humanitarian assistance


Australian volunteers achieve tangible results in developing countries, help to increase knowledge of Australia, build personal ties between communities, promote cross-cultural understanding and contribute to public diplomacy.

Volunteer placements in Africa are focused in east and southern Africa, and where possible, complement Australia’s aid investments that contribute to poverty alleviation and economic growth. In 2014-15, the Australian Government will support approximately 70 volunteers in Africa.

Information on volunteers in Africa

More information on the Volunteers Program

Peace and security

Australia has a long history of supporting United Nations-led peacekeeping operations in Africa. Australian Defence Force personnel are currently serving in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). We have also provided financial and logistical support for the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Australian Defence Force is also assisting the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai, Egypt. In the past, Australian personnel have served in UN missions in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Western Sahara and Namibia.

Outside of the peacekeeping sphere, Australia and African countries also cooperate on a range of defence and peace and security matters. Since 2011, Australia has deployed a Defence Attaché to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Australia provides training to African Defence personnel through a range of courses with a peacekeeping focus. We also cooperate with countries in the Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa, and with organisations such as the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (REFLECS-3) on anti-piracy measures. Australia hosted an international counter-piracy conference in Perth in 2012, and contributes a naval ship to international maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden.

We have and will continue to engage closely on peace and security issues in Africa throughout our term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2013 and 2014. Australia is a strong and consistent advocate within the Council for the protection of civilians, including in the nine current UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.

  • 1African Development Bank Group, Agriculture Sector Strategy 2010-14, January 2010, p. iv

Africa country pages

Last Updated: 1 April 2014