Today I embark on a five day visit to South Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius, my first to these countries as Australia’s Foreign Minister.

Australia’s engagement with the Indian Ocean region including economic, trade and maritime issues will be the focus of my discussions with my counterparts. A priority of the visit will be the promotion of Australia’s significant mining interests as well as regional security including combatting piracy.

I will be accompanied by Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja, reflecting the Coalition Government’s commitment to the economic empowerment of women and girls through our overseas development assistance.

South Africa is an economic powerhouse and the only African nation in the G20. It plays an important role in African and global issues and is our largest export market in the region with two-way investment at $6 billion. My meeting with the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, the Hon Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, will provide an opportunity to discuss further strengthening this important bilateral relationship. I will also meet with business leaders to discuss their engagement with the G20 Summit in Brisbane in November.

In Madagascar I look forward to meeting the new President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Minister for Strategic Resources. I believe I will be the first western Foreign Minister to visit since the government was formed in April following the elections in 2013 that restored democracy after a 2009 coup. Australia was a significant contributor to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led “Roadmap” for the restoration of democracy.

Australian companies have substantial mining interests in Madagascar, and I will announce the opening of our first Masters Awards scholarships for Madagascar with an emphasis on the extractives sector.

In Mauritius I will meet with the President and Prime Minister, as well as my counterparts from Mauritius and Seychelles to discuss Indian Ocean regional issues. Australia also works closely with Mauritius and Seychelles in the area of maritime security and has contributed over $4 million to regional anti-piracy initiatives. I will host the next Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) meeting of Foreign Ministers in Perth on 9 October in Australia’s second year as chair of the association.

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