West Africa, with its substantial diaspora links to Australia, young and enterprising populations, and sizeable mineral reserves, presents many opportunities. Australian companies and personnel are well represented in the extractives sector across West Africa, including in mining and drilling, oil and gas production, and related services. Increasingly, however, these opportunities are tempered by risks from crime and terrorism. Mining companies can be particularly vulnerable given their operations involve valuable commodities and they are often based in isolated locations. Risk management in relation to security is critical.
The Australian Government is conducting outreach to Australian companies, encouraging preventative and risk mitigation efforts. A major example of this was the delivery of the inaugural West Africa Mining Security Conference in Accra on 11-12 June 2019. This was an initiative of the Australian High Commission in Ghana, in partnership with the Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group (AAMEG) and private security company, MS Risk.
The conference responded to strong demand from industry for information to assist strategic investment decisions in the region. It brought together academics, subject matter experts, regional diplomats, security practitioners and mining executives to examine and discuss security trends in West Africa. Approximately 200 participants from 78 companies, including senior executives from North America, Europe and Australia, attended the conference.
Speakers noted the rapid deterioration in security across several countries in the Sahel, particularly Burkina Faso, which threatened the peace and stability of coastal West African states, such as Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. At the conference DFAT announced funding for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre to conduct regional, inter-agency counter terrorism courses to help better respond to growing security threats.
The Australian Government – through its High Commission in Ghana and others across Africa – remains committed to close engagement with Australian citizens and interests in the region, to ensure they are able to make well-informed decisions about their movements and operations.