THE African Union Commission (AUC) and Australia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that establishes a framework for close cooperation.Australia is strengthening its relations with Africa in a calculated move to enhance its political and diplomatic engagements, promoting trade and investment, addressing peace and security challenges on the continent, and delivering targeted development and humanitarian assistance.
The move by Australia, a rich country of over 23 million people with a gross domestic product of US$1,1 trillion, is perceived by political analysts in two ways: the genuine desire to prop-up social and political development in Africa and a bold bid to win the support of African countries for its candidacy for a temporary place on the United Nations Security Council for the 2013-14 term.
But the Australian government argues that its increased assistance to African countries is about contributing “more effectively” to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and being a “good international citizen in a world that is becoming ever smaller and more complex”.
AUC chairperson Jean Ping last week met Australian Foreign Affairs minister Kevin Rudd in New York to ink the memorandum.
The MoU envisages greater cooperation between Africa and Australia in relation to trade and investment; peace and security; achievement of the MDGs; agriculture and food security; democracy, governance and human rights; and climate change.
During the New York meeting, Ping and Rudd discussed the growing role and leadership of the African Union (AU) across the range of critical issues that Africa faces.
Rudd said that the AU was vital to building peace, security and prosperity on the continent.
The duo also discussed Australia’s growing engagement with Africa, which Ping warmly welcomed.
Rudd advised that Australia’s new embassy in Addis Ababa was now fully operational and would facilitate enhanced coordination with the AU.
They discussed ways in which Australia and the AU could cooperate for mutual benefit.
Ping welcomed the increasing level of Australia’s trade and investment in Africa.
Rudd outlined the growth in Australia’s aid programme to Africa which has increased by 200% in the last five years.
He said an important part of this engagement is the Africa Maternal and Child Health initiative of US$140 million over five years.
Rudd also outlined the Australian government’s commitment to work towards committing 0,15% of the country and continent’s gross national income in aid to the least-developed countries, in line with international targets.
The success of the bilateral meeting and the signing of the MoU reflected the growing ties of cooperation, and the deepening of the relationship, between Australia and the AU. — Staff Writer.