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House of the Parliament of Botswana in Gaborone
New Zealand’s relationships with most African nations are thin, based on Commonwealth and sporting ties, our historical support for African independence, and a long history of humanitarian and development assistance. Although these ties will remain important, New Zealand is seeking to move beyond our current level of contact with Africa, to develop trade linkages and find fresh ways of connecting with African interests.
African countries offer opportunities for increased bilateral trade. Although New Zealand’s trade with most African nations remains modest, exports to the continent have increased steadily since 1998. The North African markets, in particular, have shown rapid growth and are now of significant value. The recent upheaval in the Maghreb countries has sparked a process of transition which will give rise to new challenges and opportunities for New Zealand. After many years of pessimism, a core of African economies – the “African Lions” - are starting to show signs of strength and sustainability.
Figure 1: Total NZ trade with Africa
Africa is important in regard to multilateral alliances and engagement. African nations represent over one-quarter of the UN membership and a third of memberships in the Commonwealth. African issues represent around 70% of the Security Council’s work. Our relationships with African nations, therefore, are essential to our interests in these bodies, on issues ranging from climate change to development.
Despite significant economic growth on the continent, Africa still faces major development challenges, with many African nations struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While New Zealand’s development influence in Africa is small, New Zealand’s international development assistance is appreciated and valued by partners; in many cases it is the central strand in otherwise thin bilateral relationships.
Within New Zealand, Africa’s profile is rising, with a substantive African population now resident in New Zealand and the beginnings of African diplomatic representation in Wellington. The South African High Commission opened in 2009 and an Egyptian Embassy opened in early 2011. A New Zealand Institute of International Affairs seminar on Africa in late 2010 addressed this growing interest.
Read our regional travel advice for Africa [Safetravel.govt.nz]