Africa region brief

Africa is a diverse continent of great dynamism and economic potential. African nations are important partners in a rules-based international system that, as emphasised in the Foreign Policy White Paper, is critical to global economic growth, security and human development. The Australian Government is committed to long-term ties of friendship and cooperation with the countries of Africa and is acknowledged as a valued partner.

Political and diplomatic ties

Australia has diplomatic relations with all 54 African UN-member states.

Australia has established ties with regional African organisations-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 as well as individual African countries covering a range of issues from science and technology to sports cooperation.

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

Trade and investment

Economic diplomacy is at the core of the Foreign Policy White Paper and the Australian Government's approach to 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.

The annual Australia-Africa Week brings together a range of conferences and events focused on promoting and addressing Australia-Africa relations, including the Australia-Africa Universities Network forum, the Africa Down Under Mining Conference and the Africa-Australia Infrastructure + Technology Conference. In 2019, the week will be held in Perth from 1 September to 7 September. Australian investment in Africa is thriving, particularly in the resources sector. There are over 170 ASX-listed companies operating in 35 countries in Africa.

Australia’s two-way goods and services trade with Africa was valued at $10.7 billion in 2017-18.

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

The Australia Awards in Africa is a targeted and enduring flagship aid investment to Africa. The Australia Awards in 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 and Short Courses, 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.

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.

Through the Australia Awards-Africa two short courses were delivered in 2018 to contribute to capacity building in extractives governance. The University of Western Australia in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg delivered a Minerals and Energy Economics short course for 28 participants. The University of Queensland provided short course on Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives delivered in Brisbane and Madagascar with 28 participants.

More information on our development work on extractives 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 population. Australia is sharing highly relevant technical, research and agri-business expertise through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Our program also focuses on boosting private sector activity through improving the functioning of agricultural value chains and markets. We support market development to promote growth and improve livelihoods across a number of partnerships, including with the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund Ltd (AECF) 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 the Environment).

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

Australia provides funding to NGOs through the Australian Cooperation Program (ANCP), the Direct Aid Program (DAP) and the Civil Society WASH Fund.

More than 125,000 people in Africa had better food security, rural development and agricultural outcomes and over 60,000 had improved access to water and sanitation through support from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) in 2017-18.

In 2018-19, an estimated $25 million will be provided for community development projects across 28 African countries. In 2017-18, ANCP supported 27 Australian NGOs to deliver 105 projects in 27 African countries.

More information on NGOs in Sub-Saharan Africa

Humanitarian assistance

The Foreign Policy White Paper points to the Australian Government’s increased commitment to humanitarian action investing in strategic, multi-year assistance packages for countries experiencing protracted crisis. Australia continues to be 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 2017-18 Australia provided $41.45 million in humanitarian funding to crises in 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.

In addition to this, $25 million of Australia's 2017-18 core funding to the World Food Programme was allocated to nine African countries.

In 2016-17, Australia provided over $68 million in humanitarian funding to crises in Africa. In addition to this nearly $26 million of Australia's 2016-17 core funding to the World Food Programme was allocated to eight African countries.

More information on DFAT’s humanitarian assistance


Australian volunteers achieve tangible results by supporting organisations in developing countries deliver on their own development objectives, 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 eastern and southern Africa, and where possible, complement Australia's aid investments that contribute to poverty alleviation and economic growth. In 2018-19, Australia will support 100 volunteer placements in Africa (South Africa, Tanzania, Eswatini (Swaziland) and Lesotho). In 2017-18, 95 volunteer placements were supported.

Information on volunteers in Africa

More information on the Volunteers Program

Peace and security

We are the 11th largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget. 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 contributes a naval ship to international maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden. Australia contributes to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. It provides fast, flexible funding to address drivers of conflict and build sustainable peace and over two-thirds of the funds are provided to Africa.

We will continue to engage closely on peace and security issues in Africa, continuing on from our term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2013 and 2014.

Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations

The Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations (AGAAR) was launched by the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop, on 4 September 2015. AGAAR has been tasked with informing Australia’s engagement and policies on Sub-Saharan Africa.

AGAAR’s membership reflects the broad nature of the contemporary relationship between Australia and the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Its members are drawn from business, academia, civil society and the public sector.

Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations website

Members of the Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations

Contact us

  • Mail:
    AGAAR Secretariat
    Middle East and Africa Division
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    RG Casey Building
    John McEwen Crescent
    BARTON ACT 0221
  • Phone: (02) 6261 2090
  • Email:
Last Updated: 18 October 2019