Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 00:19 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 00:19 | SYDNEY

Africa: An unlikely winner in the budget

19 May 2009 16:22

Joel Negin is a lecturer in International Public Health at Sydney University.

In late December last year, in a Lowy Institute policy brief, Glenn Denning and I provided some recommendations on how Australia could re-engage with sub-Saharan Africa. We noted comments by the Australian Government — including from Prime Minister Rudd and Bob McMullan, the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance — regarding Canberra’s desire to become more involved with Africa. 

We called for a substantial increase in the overseas development assistance to be delivered to Africa and for better targeting of that aid to niche areas neglected by other donors where Australia could make a substantial contribution leveraging Australian expertise.

With the release of the budget last week, we are able to check on the Government's progress in its commitment to supporting Africa's development. Was it another promise crushed under the burden of the Global Financial Crisis or did traditionally neglected Africa manage to remain on the agenda?

In the 2007-08 and 2008-09 budgets, AusAID allocated only 3.2% of its ODA to Africa, or $116 million in the 2008-09 budget. In the 2009-10 budget, the amount allocated to Africa increased to 4.3% of ODA or A$164 million. This represents an increase of 35% as a percentage of ODA and an increase of 41% in dollar terms — considerably more than we had predicted. As Australia gradually increases it allocation of ODA as a percentage of Gross National Income from 0.34% this year to 0.5% by 2015-16, we will see funding to Africa increase even more.

But is this increase in funding being well spent and appropriately targeted? We suggested Australia should focus on areas of shared challenges between Australia and Africa where Australia’s experience and expertise enable it to make strategic and mutually beneficial contributions. Specifically, we called for 60% of funding for Africa to focus on sustainable agriculture and 25% on renewable energy. And indeed AusAID announced a substantial new focus on 'Food Security through Rural Development' with $464 million allocated over 4 years covering Asia-Pacific and Africa. Depending on the percentage of the funds directed to Africa, this represents a significant commitment to strengthening agriculture in Africa.

Beyond agriculture, AusAID is allocating funds to water and sanitation, maternal and child health, scholarships for African students, and humanitarian assistance. 

Overall, this is a positive budget with regard to Australia's re-engagement with Africa.