New book by AfREC Research Fellow analyses the development of Australia-Africa relations

AfREC Research Fellow Dr Nikola Pijović has just published a new book analysing the historical and contemporary development of Australia-Africa relations. The book, Australia and Africa: A New Friend from the South? is published by Palgrave MacMillan in its book series Africa’s Global Engagement: Perspectives from Emerging Countries.

According to the publisher’s website: “This book offers analysis of Australia’s engagement with Africa, as well as the country’s rather unique status as a ‘new’ actor and emerging country in Africa. With its empirical originality and comparative contribution, the book fills a gap in both the study of Africa’s global engagement with emerging countries, and in connection with Australia’s largely unknown engagement with African states.”

“Australia has presented itself as Africa’s ‘friend from the south,’ without any colonial baggage, and is interested in a long-term partnership for trade and development. In this context, Australia is only one of many ‘new’ players seeking more intensive engagement with Africa since the end of the Cold War. At its core, the book argues that because of its largely unacknowledged ‘flawed’ historical engagement with Africa, as well as the political partisanship driving its fickle and volatile contemporary engagement with the continent, Australia suffers from an inability to assess its strategic and long-term interests – i.e., it doesn’t know what it wants in or from Africa. This makes Australia a rather unique emerging player in Africa: while other 'new' actors' engagement with Africa is generally strategic, and driven to a large extent by a desire to secure resources and counter the influence of geopolitical rivals, Australia’s efforts with regard to Africa are more episodic and not about acquiring resources or countering its rivals. Hence, while immigration, globalization, trade, terrorism, and climate change continue to bring Africa and Australia closer together, Australia’s failure to understand its own interests continues to hamper its engagement with Africa.”

Dr Pijović said that the book offers a unique contribution both to our understanding of Australia’s engagement with Africa, as well as Australia’s place in wider context of ‘new’ and emerging actors engaging with Africa.

‘This is a first-ever examination of the entirety of Australia’s historical and contemporary engagement with Africa, covering diplomatic, aid, trade, and strategic engagement. As such, it is an important source for anyone wanting to understand how Australia’s relations with Africa developed historically, and how they are likely to develop in the future.’

‘The book makes a strong argument that Australia does not really know what it wants in Africa – there is no politically shared appreciation why engagement with Africa is in Australia’s interests. This has, since the mid-1990s, translated into a fickle, volatile, and short-term political mindset guiding Australia’s approach to engagement with Africa’, said Dr Pijović.

‘However, the book is not only about Australia’s engagement with Africa. It also places Australia in the context of other ‘new’ and emerging actors in Africa, providing new insights. Australia’s example challenges the seemingly accepted wisdom that most ‘new’ and emerging actors engage with Africa to secure resources and counter the influence of strategic rivals, usually through a close collaboration between businesses and government. Australia’s engagement with Africa, as my book shows, shares none of those traits, highlighting that not all ‘new’ and emerging actors engaging with African states do so with similar motives and in the same ways!’

The book will be launched by AfREC at UWA during Australia-Africa Week in September 2019.

Dr Nikola Pijović, currently based in Pretoria, South Africa, is a Research Fellow at the Africa Research and Engagement Centre (AfREC), University of Western Australia. He specializes in Australian foreign policy, and is a leading authority on Australia’s engagement with Africa, having published academic and media articles on Australia and Africa, as well as providing submissions to the Australian Parliament on the country’s relations with African states. Dr Pijović’s research also focuses on comparative foreign policy-making in two-party political systems, and especially the distinctions between ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ foreign policy. He has also published on statehood, insurgency, and terrorism in Somalia and Somaliland.

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