By Temitope Ponle
Australia says its trade relations with Africa have improved tremendously over the years with the value estimated at 5.7 billion dollars in 2015.
The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Amb. Paul Lehmann confirmed this in a statement made available in Abuja on Thursday.
He stated that 1.6 billion dollars of the total trade was in services.
He noted that “in 2015, two-way trade in goods and services between Australia and Africa totalled 5.7 billion U.S. dollars, 1.6 billion dollars of that was in services.”
Lehmann said Australia was set to host the first Australia-Africa week in Perth, in recognition of the substantive economic engagement between Australia and many countries of Africa.
“Next week, the Australian city of Perth is hosting the first Australia-Africa Week.
“The week is built around the nucleus of the Africa Down Under mining conference and brings together a range of events.
`”These include the Australia-Africa Universities Network Forum, the Africa Oil, Energy and Gas Conference, and the Australia-Africa Technology and Infrastructure Conference.”
He said that at least 12 ministers of mining from Africa would participate in the event including Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi.
“They will be joined by a substantial group of representatives of Australia’s mining and extractive industry: company executives; investors; financiers; suppliers; and mining service providers.”
Lehmann said that Australian companies had an estimated 23 billion dollars invested in extractive projects in Africa.
He added that there were more than 200 Australian companies with about 700 projects in 35 countries in the African region.
“Much of these are in exploration activities, as such, the future is promising, especially as we come out of a period of particularly low commodity prices,” he said.
The envoy said Africa was the largest overseas investment market for Australian extractive companies.
He noted that Africa accounted for more than 30 per cent of the world’s mineral resources, produced more than 60 metal and mineral products and was a leader in the exportation of crude oil and natural gas.
He, however, expressed concern over the continent’s low production of its mineral resources, saying both Africa and Australia shared rich endowment of natural resources.
He noted that the Australian Government was ready to share its experience and expertise with the continent.
He revealed that “Africa’s share of the world’s diamonds, bauxite, vanadium, manganese, platinum, cobalt, gold and zirconium is proportionally even higher.
“But despite this natural endowment, Africa accounts for only about 8 per cent of global mineral production; boosting this production will require considerable foreign investment.
“Foreign investment must be carefully managed, but well-managed investment brings many benefits; it is this experience that Australian investment can bring to Africa.
“And the Australian Government is also helping African countries to attract foreign investment; we are making a real and lasting contribution to the development of the extractives industry in Africa.”
Lehmann further said more than 450 African students, including 36 Nigerians had participated in the Australian Government’s ‘Australia Awards’ scholarship programme in the past five years.
He explained that the programme focused on governance in the extractives sector, agricultural productivity and public policy.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Africa has become an important trade partner to many western countries and some major Asian powers.
NAN recalls that China and most recently Japan have initiated measures to improve trade and other relations with Africa.
Japan, for instance, is reported to have pledged to inject billions of dollars in viable ventures in Africa.