Speech to mark the opening of Australia's Embassy in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Speech, check against delivery

26 January 2011

I am delighted to be here in Africa. I am delighted to be here in Addis Ababa.

As Australia looks west across the Indian Ocean, our engagement with South Asia, the Gulf States and the continent of Africa continues to deepen.

For Australia is as much a country in the Indian Ocean region as we are in the Pacific.

So it's appropriate we should celebrate our national day on the other side of the Indian Ocean in Ethiopia's capital, seat of the African Union.

Tonight I would like to speak about an Africa that has a strong future.

Africa, of course, has had some false starts in the past. But now the evidence mounts that the continent is increasingly living up to the aspirations of its people.

Australians, as we look west, see greater opportunity, growing hope and a range of common interests to pursue in partnership with the countries and institutions of Africa.

Africa, we know, has had a difficult history. In 1879, more than 90 per cent of the continent was ruled by Africans. By 1900, almost all of it, Ethiopia being a notable exception, was ruled by Europeans.

But colonial dominance was relatively short lived, with independence in Ghana in 1957 leading a continental push for independence.

Independence from colonial rule brought with it hope and enthusiasm. A continent of great human and natural resources, Africa had cause to look to the future with confidence.

But many of these hopes were not realised.

In too many cases, Africa's colonial masters were replaced by leaders who failed their own people, squandering rather than harnessing the talents of their people and the natural resource wealth of their countries.

By 1995, 15 wars were under way on the continent. Economic growth had stagnated for twenty years.

The UN's human development report on the 1990s painted a grim picture of Africa's future. It said that based on trends of that decade, it would be the year 2147 before the poorest countries in Africa would have halved poverty and 2165 before child mortality could cut by two-thirds.

As recently as 2000, The Economist published an article titled 'hopeless Africa'.

The world, including Australia, grew resigned to reports of conflict, poverty and despair.

But standing here today, a decade later, what a starkly different picture begins to emerge. The once 'hopeless' continent of Africa are now what McKinsey describes as lions on the move.

What has made the difference?

Important factors included: the end of superpower competition; the peaceful conclusion to many longstanding conflicts; structural economic and financial reforms; greater openness to foreign investment; and the abolition of apartheid through reconciliation not bloodshed.

Above all else, what has been most striking has been the determination of Africans to turn their continent around.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke eloquently of the change at a conference in Cameroon last year.

"Unnecessary and cruel wars have come to an end. Increases in trade, domestic and foreign investments have fuelled impressive economic growth rates. New partners are being found, democracy and human rights have taken root, governance has improved, civil society has been empowered, an agricultural revolution is beginning to take hold and opportunities have been extended to ever larger segments of the population…."

Africa is indeed a more stable, free and prosperous continent than it was. Coups are now rare and where they happen the continent rejects them. Significant conflicts have been resolved. From 15 active wars across the continent in 1995, last year only 5 wars and incidents of civil unrest were recorded.

Many African nations have taken strides to establish constitutional democracies and democratic institutions. Something like 35 of the continent's countries now elect their governments through multi-party polls, up from just three democracies 30 years ago.

And the African Union is committed to protecting these hard-won gains in political stability. The AU's principled response to the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire shows a fundamental recognition that trashing democracy will cruel the brand of this new Africa. The political gains for the continent over the last decade have been too hard-won to let go lightly. Africa now has a deep vested interest in its future stability.

The challenge for the continents' political leadership will be to consolidate these great gains for the long term future.

Because political stability always underpins economic growth. Political and economic reforms have laid the foundations for an impressive economic turnaround for Africa.

Three of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies of the past five years were from sub-Saharan Africa. And the IMF predicts four of the top 10 in the next five years will also be from Africa.

Over the past decade sub-Saharan Africa's real GDP growth rate jumped to an annual average of 5.7 per cent, up from 2.4 per cent over the previous two decades.

And this growth is likely to accelerate: Africa is experiencing rapid urbanisation – just over 40 per cent of Africans now live in cities - and cities fuel domestic demand, they drive modern economies, they accelerate economic growth.

Its combined consumer spending in 2008 was $860 billion. McKinsey predicts this will grow to $1.4 trillion in 2020. And it estimates that Africa has as many middle-class households as India.

Africa is now profiting as never before from its natural resource wealth, and this is a key driver of its current success. It has, for example, 30 per cent of planet's mineral reserves and exports 12 per cent of the world's petroleum. It has 60 per cent of the world's total of uncultivated arable land.

But its resource boom and potential in agribusiness only tells part of the story.

Encouragingly, Africa's economy is becoming increasingly diversified with a growth in other sectors such as finance, health, and education.

Investment into Africa is booming. Foreign direct investment in Africa has increased from $10 billion in 2000 to $59 billion in 2009, significantly larger than the flow to China if measured relative to GDP.

There is no question that Africa's economic and political reforms, its agricultural and mineral wealth, and its economic potential have grabbed the world's attention.

I am well aware, as are many of you, that, even as we recognise much recent progress in Africa, we cannot shy away from enduring challenges.

The big picture is brighter than before but everyday reality underlines the depth of challenge ahead.

Problems of governance, of security and of still widespread poverty.

We recognise the serious threats posed by ongoing instability in Somalia, where terrorism and piracy affect ordinary Somalis, neighbouring countries, including virtually the whole of Africa's East Coast and the security of critical sea-lines of communication in the Indian Ocean.

There are major humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo; serious problems of food insecurity in the Sahel; and the ongoing challenge of ensuring Sudan – North and South - can build a stable and prosperous future, beyond the recent referendum.

Despite its progress, Africa also remains the world's poorest continent.

One in eight African children dies before the age of five. 51 per cent of all maternal deaths occur here. With maternal mortality rates of sub-Saharan Africa more than double that for the developing world. Four in ten Africans do not have access to safe drinking water. Almost half of the 72 million children out of school worldwide live in sub-Saharan Africa. While HIV prevalence has levelled off, sub-Saharan Africa is still home to 67 per cent of people living with HIV.

As the UN Secretary-General has reminded us, the Millennium Development Goals are an expression of basic human rights, the rights of everyone to good health, education and shelter.

Any commitment to the MDGs must therefore include a commitment – both Africans and others – to the poor people of the continent.

But, with Africa the region most off-track on progress towards achieving the MDGs, many Africans are denied these rights.

Not just to reduce and eliminate the degrading reality of extreme poverty.

But in doing so building the human and physical capital of a continent that can become a more dynamic contributor to global growth, and in doing so, create new growth markets for all.

Whichever way you look, in the long-term, Africa matters to the international community and it matters to Australia.

As Australia reinvigorates its political and economic engagement with Africa, it is important to reflect on Australia's place in the world.

Australia is a middle power with global interests.

We have one of the world's oldest continuous democracies.

We have the 3rd largest maritime zone in the world and more than a third of it lies within the Indian Ocean, which laps the shores of East Africa.

Our $1.3 trillion economy is the 13th largest in the world and the 4th largest in Asia.

Australia is a founding member of the United Nations, the G20 and the East Asia Summit. We are active members of, or partners with, most of the major councils of the world.

Australia is committed to creative, middle power diplomacy and to using this as a basis to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

In peace and security, we have more than three and a half thousand troops abroad in support of UN and other multilateral operations from Afghanistan to East Timor to Sudan.

We are active in the G20 bringing about IMF reform to give greater voice from emerging economies.

Active in the WTO to get a better deal for the agricultural producers for the developing world.

Active in the UNFCCC and other fora on climate change, including our advocacy for Fast Start Financing for climate change adaptation for the world's most vulnerable economies.

Active too, as a major contributor to global demining, including here in Ethiopia.

And active too in support of the Millennium Development Goals – principally in our immediate neighbourhood in the South Pacific, but also more broadly across Asia and number of countries in Africa.

Australia is also one of the biggest mining countries in the world. And we are a country whose prosperity has largely been built on an efficient mining sector.

Australia is now actively engaged in the mining sector in Africa - with A$20 billion worth of investment, across 600 projects, in more than 40 countries across the continent.

As we increasingly do in the education and wider services sector as well.

We in Australia, including the number of impressive Australians I have met here working in NGOs and UN agencies, and in businesses have energy, creativity, expertise and commitment to bring to our new African engagement.

Africa's economic potential is a big story that spells opportunity for both Australia and Africa.

Australia is also committed to a deeper and more extensive political engagement with Africa.

An important symbol of this was the MoU on bilateral cooperation I signed in September last year with the distinguished chair of the AU Commission, Jean Ping.

We are increasing high-level visits in both directions. Indeed mine is the second to Ethiopia and the African Union Foreign Ministers meeting by an Australian Foreign Minister in two years.

Australia is working closely with Africa, bilaterally and multilaterally to tackle the challenges like climate change, trade liberalisation, international security, peace-building, global energy needs and addressing global poverty.

We also share common ground with our friends on the continent that the United Nations must deliver greater African representation on the UN Security Council – as part of broader Security Council reform.

We will continue to make an important contribution to addressing Africa's peace and security challenges. We have personnel deployed to the UN mission in Sudan, and we have worked through the UN Peacebuilding Commission to support Sierra Leone and Burundi. This follows a long record of Australian involvement in African peacekeeping missions in the past, including Rwanda and Namibia.

We have also worked with the African Union in developing guidelines on the protection of civilians by Peace Support Missions, which we hope to see adopted in the near future. And we are boosting training and capacity building to defence forces and law enforcement agencies across the continent.

We share a deep concern with the AU and its member states about the scourge of terrorism which has already affected this continent and we see again most startling in the Horn of Africa.

As the terrible events in Moscow again remind us, a decade after September 11, terrorism remains alive and well, an enemy of us all, and requires continued international vigilance.

Such vigilance is also required on Somalia, a major international security issue which I have today discussed with my Ethiopian counterpart and the Chair of the African Union Commission. Al-Shabaab continues to pose a threat in Somalia, more broadly in Africa, and well beyond its borders, including in Australia.

In the economic sphere, Australian companies and business people are investing in Africa because they see potential and opportunity in Africa.

As noted earlier, there are more than 215 Australian resource companies working in Africa, on nearly 600 projects, across 41 countries. Australian investment in the sector is about $20 billion, with billions more in prospect.

This is an area in which Australia has real expertise to share.

We are determined to use Australian expertise to help African countries, through training and technical assistance, to manage their resources so that they spur economic development.

We also need, as the Australian government, to be active across the continent in supporting, at both a political and consular level, the many of Australians now working in this vital sector of the African economy.

Important for Australia. Important for Africa.

Australia is also playing its part in Africa to attack the problem of extreme poverty under the MDGs. Let me give you some practical examples of what we have so far achieved.

In doing that, please allow me to acknowledge in particular the service of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her late husband, Dr Reginald Hamlin.

They arrived here in Addis Ababa from Australia in 1959 for what was meant to be a three year contract to help establish a midwifery school. But they soon realised their skills were desperately needed long-term.

The Hamlins developed a surgical technique to close obstetric fistulae. In Ethiopia, the condition was widespread.

The young women who suffered this debilitating and humiliating condition could be outcast from their community.

The Hamlins opened their hearts to these women, working for years to establish a hospital dedicated to them.

They achieved this in 1974 with the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital, the only hospital in the world still to this day that is dedicated to fistula repair.

The Hamlins' technique and the hospital they founded has treated 30 000 women, healing their condition and healing their lives.

I visited the hospital yesterday and had a chance to see the amazing work that Catherine started.

52 years after she first came, and at the age of 87, Catherine is still here working to treat and prevent obstetric fistulae.

On this Australia Day, we are honoured to have among us Catherine Hamlin, a living national treasure of Australia and, I venture to say, of Ethiopia.

Australia's Maternal and Child Health initiative for Africa is building on this legacy.

For more than 25 years we've been a contributor to the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital and its five regional centres. We have done this under governments of both political persuasions in Australia.

What does this mean in real terms?

It means in 2009, the hospital treated 2,278 fistula patients, distributed 15,622 birthing kits and provided training on the prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula to over 5,600 community members.

The first 11 midwifery students graduated from the Australian-funded Hamlin College of midwives in 2010, and these graduates have been deployed across Ethiopia to help women in remote areas.

The college currently has 53 more students enrolled.

Elsewhere, through Australia's Sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Africa Program, we are supporting Mozambique to deliver treated water to an additional 84,000 people by 2014.

We have also supported, through UNICEF, the rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems that are used by over three million people in Zimbabwe – while another two million Zimbabweans have been supported through our Protracted Relief Program to grow more food.

And through Australia's food security initiative for Africa, we are helping Africa build its crop and livestock productivity. Australia's national science agency, the CSIRO, is sharing world class expertise in dry-land and tropical agricultural research with partners in West, Central and East Africa.

And the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has developed a program aimed at increasing crop productivity of maize and legumes by 30% on approximately 500,000 African small farms in East and southern Africa within ten years.

In the practical ways described above, and in many more, Australia is committed to using its expertise in agriculture, water and sanitation and maternal and child health to work with African governments and institutions make real inroads into poverty across the continent.

In Australia, when it comes to development, our tradition is to do what we say.

Because we want to make a measurable difference in people's lives. It's also a part of what we call international citizenship.

Australian education is also making a real difference to Africa.

Almost a year ago Prime Minister Meles Zenawi opened UNESCO's annual summit on education in Addis Ababa with the statement that:

"Education is perhaps the most critical instrument for the social, economic and political empowerment of citizens."

The Prime Minister is right. Both here and in every country in the world. The Australian Government is pitching in to help Africa give its young people the opportunity to meet their educational goals.

This year the number of Australia Africa Awards scholarships will rise to 400. These will be available to 40 African countries.

By 2013 we will offer 1000 awards a year for African students.

We too believe in the power of education. Not just to give a man fish to eat when he is hungry. But to teach him how to fish. In the great tradition of the Colombo Plan of half a century or more ago.

These students will join the more than 4,000 students from Africa who have been offered scholarships by Australian Governments since 1960.

And they will join the nearly 14 000 other African students in Australia's institutions of learning as private students.

These students will come back here to Africa and use their new experience to help equip Africa for a new future.

This investment in Africa's future is also about providing new opportunities to advance learning in areas of key importance to Africa – agriculture and food security, public health and medicine, energy and resource management - and to contribute to nation building here in Africa.

It continues a long tradition of giving future African leaders the opportunity to learn at our best universities.

A growing number of Africans who occupy senior positions were trained in Australia, many through government scholarships.

Today, for example, I met the Chief of the Trade and International Negotiations Section at the UN Economic Commission for Africa. He had studied at the University of New England and is now back in Africa working to bring prosperity to his people through trade. He and the others that follow them will be part of the transformation taking place in Africa.

These students will also strengthen the links between Australia and Africa, creating bonds of friendship and leading to the sharing of knowledge and expertise in both directions.

Australia has had a history of supporting Ethiopians achieve their best in education – I believe we have such alumni among us tonight.

This year 13 Ethiopian students will be offered long-term postgraduate awards.

The Australia Africa Awards will continue a fine tradition.

My purpose tonight is to signal that Australia is committed to a new engagement with Africa – in fact new engagements with this new Africa we have seen emerge over the last decade.

It is part of our strategy of looking west – of Australia as an Indian Ocean power and a Pacific power – of Australia recognising the new realities emerging in this wider Indian Ocean region in South Asia, the Gulf and Africa.

Australia looks west through our western capital – the great city of Perth. West Australia is an Australian power house. Its energy and resource sector is huge by global standards. And so is the expertise it brings to bear in the mining services sector. As well as in its wider services sector, including its first class higher education institutions.

Perth and Western Australia are Australia's gateway to the great ocean that joins us.

This will be an exciting century for us all.

For rising India. For the great investment powerhouses of the Gulf. But also for Africa rising.

We in Australia with to be partners with you in this future. Both in the opportunities. But also in the challenges.

And that is why it gives me great pleasure today – this Australia Day – to open officially this new Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa, home of the Union that unified all Africa.

END

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