Speaking at a public lecture under the title “The Future of Australia’s relationship with Africa” at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan Tuesday disclosed that the number of Australian scholarships to Africa will increase from 250 in 2010 to 1,000 by 2012-13.
The Member of Parliament (MP) said that Australia had traditionally focused in Asia but that this government made the decision that “we will re-engage Africa.”
The Australian Labor party parliamentarian swiftly countered speculations that Australia was increasing its aid to Africa simply because it wanted to canvass 58 African votes to help Australia secure a seat on the UN Security Council.
McMullan stated that the Millennium Development Goals cannot be reached in Africa “without increased aid.”
He disclosed that the Australian government was proposing to “give 5% of our aid to Africa.”
Presently according to published statistics “Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa increased from $101.0 million in 2007-08 to $163.9 million in 2009-10, which represents 4.3 per cent of current total Australian ODA.”
McMullan argued that the present Australian government wants to increase the aid figure to Africa to $200 million.
On Education he clearly stated his position on the debate of whether it was better to focus on tertiary education, saying that he had held the view and still does that basic education should be the focus.
The Australian MP said that health in Africa was a problem for them quoting statistics of 26,000 maternal deaths out of every 100,000 pregnancies in Africa as compared to 4 deaths out for every 100,000 in industrialised countries.
He highlighted assistance in Agriculture and food security, water and sanitation and maternal and child health programs.
Coupled with all of this he said they were now assisting in mining where they were teaching Africans how to manage the environmental aspect of mining, how to regulate the mining leases and also how the taxation can be beneficial to the country.
Presently two mines ministry officials from Sierra Leone are attending short leadership courses at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Questioned by Awoko that Australian intervention in Africa was skewed towards South, East and Central Africa and in the case of Sierra Leone Australian companies have been mining in the country for over thirty years yet a High Commissioner was only appointed about three years ago – McMullan admitted that this was “true” and defended his country’s position saying this was because they are closer to them (South and East Africa) in terms of the Indian ocean.
He however stated that “this was in the past now it is changing we just extended diplomatic relations with ten more countries in Africa and for the future the scholarships will now be evenly spread.”
In published statements on Australian Aid to Africa it is stated that “In his 2009 Africa Day (25 May) address, Prime Minister Smith announced that Australia will provide $100 million over four years to improve food security in Africa through support to research, the opening up of rural markets and increased crop and livestock productivity.”
Also that “Africa is a key recipient of the $300 million Water and Sanitation budget initiative (announced in the 2008-09 budget)” and “Australia will provide at least $10 million to Africa over two years through the Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, a special fund that targets the poorest and most vulnerable by working at the community level.”
Other speakers included the Ugandan High Commissioner H.E. James Lukabyo, Dr Denis Blight, Susan Harris Rimmer and Isaac Donato an African honours student who advocated that conflict resolution be embraced alongside development programs for sustainability. By Kelvin Lewis in Australia