Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 20:41 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 20:41 | SYDNEY

Australian aid to Africa: The UNSC bid myth

This post is part of the Australian aid to Africa debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

27 April 2010 15:33

This post is part of the Australian aid to Africa debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Joel Negin is a Research Fellow at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and co-author of a Lowy Institute Policy Brief on Australian aid to Africa.

Sam notes the 'persistent fear' that the Government is only increasing interest in and funding to Africa in order to win a Security Council seat. This 'fear' has been promulgated by a small number of commentators including those at the Lowy Institute and, yes, those comments have made headlines. But those commentators can't have it both ways — creating headlines by accusing the Government of focusing on Africa only for Security Council votes; and then turning around and saying that the aid to Africa is mis-allocated because it creates headlines. 

The investments Australia is making in Africa are long-term development activities including water and sanitation, sustainable local agricultural systems and education. Sam seems to think that Australian engagement is to make headlines, but when was the last time he saw a headline about a latrine in Tanzania or fertiliser being distributed to farmers in Zambia? 

In Africa, AusAID has an opportunity to position itself as a flexible and responsive niche player working closely with government to address neglected areas. Early signs suggest that this is the emerging direction of AusAID's engagement rather than the suggested headline-grabbers.

The suggestion that Australian engagement with Africa is largely motivated by the Security Council issue just doesn't ring true for me, for a few reasons. 

In its engagement with Africa, the Government is only following the business, cultural, NGO and academic communities who have been building their engagement for years. Australian people, organisations and businesses are already invested in Africa's progress (and not because of the Security Council) and the Government is now supporting that move with its own diplomatic investment. 

Furthermore, if it is true that Australia is only increasing aid funding to Africa to get votes, then it is doing a very poor job of it. Luxembourg and Finland are Australia's Security Council competitors and, in 2008, they both gave considerably more to Africa in terms of aid than did Australia. According to the OECD, in US$ millions, Australia gave 80, Luxembourg 137 and Finland 262. If aid to Africa were just to win Security Council votes, one would think that Australia would jump ahead of Finland's contribution, but that is not the case.

Photo by Flickr user Yang and Yun's Album, used under a Creative Commons license.