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Australia and Africa – a trade synergy

21 February, 2006

While Australia’s diplomatic and trade eyes are firmly fixed on Asia, and international focus remains on the emerging economic powers of China and India, the countries of Southern Africa have been busy. As these nations undergo continuing economic reform, including greater trade liberalisation and the active encouragement of foreign direct investment, their collective power grows; meaning the opportunities for Australian companies are increasing as well.

Australia Business Limited

There is a direct synergy between Australia’s economy and the emerging economies of Southern Africa. Australia is rich in mineral commodities and tourism is a key part of our economy. The same is true for Southern Africa.

But these are not the only opportunities for Australian companies. Josh Abdurahman, Sydney based General Secretary of the Australia Southern Africa Business Council agrees that sectors other than mining and tourism are emerging in the Southern African nations which require Australian expertise.

“These include education and training, agriculture and manufacturing,” Abdurahman said.

“The manufacturing sector across Southern Africa is a fledgling industry and as such the opportunities there for Australian expertise and investment are great. The important thing to remember is that most of the countries making up SADC are only now emerging economically, and there are still difficulties to overcome, but because of this the chance for Australian business to get in now, at the start so to speak, are definitely worth investigating.”

In February last year, the Australian Southern Africa Business Council hosted its inaugural three day Trade, Investment and Resources Conference in Botswana. According to Josh Abdurahman the overriding message delivered at the conference was business integration, not exploitation – as has been the case in the past.

“The message is about black empowerment and alleviating poverty and the way to achieve this is for foreign business and investment to work with, and alongside, Southern African businesses,” Abdurahman said.

“The nations of Southern Africa welcome Australian business, technology and expertise in their countries, in partnership with local enterprise. In the mining sector Australian technology is already there, in a big way, and this continues to drive further opportunities in other areas. Australian companies are heeding this message, working with local business and employing local people, and because of this they are welcomed and respected.”

Josh Abdurahman cites the West Australian Department of Agriculture and CSIRO’s close partnership with the Botswana Government, in genetic research on indigenous cattle, as an example of this co-operative approach.

“The beef industry is Botswana’s largest export earner and Australian agricultural and scientific expertise is instrumental in assisting with the improvement of livestock there,” Abdurahman explained.

“In fact, both the Australian public and private sectors are assisting with improving agricultural practice, processes and animal husbandry throughout Southern Africa.”

“Australian companies will find enormous opportunities in Southern Africa, with very welcoming and willing people. Australians are viewed as not money hungry and good business partners as opposed to multinational exploiters. Further, Australian companies which are working in Southern Africa do so there on the ground, another example of close integration. This is appreciated because for too long international companies ran their African operations via remote control.”

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