Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Diplomatic appointment - Ambassador to the African Union and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

8 September 2010

Today I announce the appointment of Ms Lisa Filipetto as Australia's resident Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, with concurrent responsibility for Australia's relations with the African Union. Ms Filipetto is expected to take up her appointment later this month.

On the occasion of Africa Day, 25 May 2010, I announced that Australia would open a new embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This reflects the long-term significance Australia attaches to the broadening and deepening of its relations with the continent and countries of Africa.

It is also clear recognition of the importance of the African Union, the continent's primary body for promoting regional coordination and integration. The African Union is playing an increasingly important role on international issues and on regional security questions, including Somalia and Sudan.

Australia's commitment to engage Africa is based neither on sentiment nor short term expediency but on Australia's long-term economic, social and strategic interests.

To prosper into the future, Australia, as a great trading nation, cannot ignore Africa, a continent of more than 50 countries and nearly a billion people.

Until recently, the Australian private sector had been quicker to recognise the economic importance of Africa than had the Australian public sector. This has particularly been the case for the mineral resources industry.

More than 185 Australian minerals and petroleum resources companies have interests in 40 African countries, with current and prospective investment estimated at $20 billion. Australia's minerals and resources companies have more projects in Africa than in any other region of the world.

The recent very successful Africa DownUnder Conference in Perth, attended by seven African Ministers, was testament to this.

African nations also have an important and growing influence in multilateral fora.

They comprise more than a quarter of the membership of the World Trade Organization, the United Nations itself and the Commonwealth. For Australia, it makes strategic sense to engage with Africa bilaterally, regionally and through the African Union.

Ambassador Filipetto will work to advance Australia's growing cooperation and dialogue with the African Union on global issues, including peace and security, climate change, trade and investment and development cooperation.

Australia is committed to being a good international citizen and to supporting Africa, which remains the continent with the highest percentage of people living in absolute poverty.

Australia has significantly expanded its efforts to help Africa accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2010-11, Australia will provide around $200 million to Africa, approximately five per cent of our overseas development assistance. This commitment has been more than matched by the Australian public, who donated more than $280 million to Africa through Australian NGOs in 2008-09.

Australia's new Defence Attaché for Africa, who will be based in Addis Ababa, will build further on our security and defence cooperation with the African Union and African countries.

Australia enjoys positive bilateral relations with Ethiopia, which is the second most populous country in Africa, as well as being the seat of the African Union.

Our development assistance to Ethiopia has a strong focus on food security and maternal and child health. From 2011, Ethiopia will become eligible for the first time to receive postgraduate scholarships under the Australia Awards.

Australia also has an inter-country adoption program with Ethiopia. The number of Ethiopian-born people in Australia has grown steadily in recent years and now numbers several thousand.

Ms Filipetto is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade (DFAT) and was until recently Australia's High Commissioner to Nairobi, a position she assumed in May 2007.

Ms Filipetto has extensive experience within the department and has served overseas as Ambassador to Cambodia, Consul-General, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as in Ireland and Brunei Darussalam.

Ms Filipetto holds a Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from the Australian National University.

Australia's new Embassy in Addis Ababa is expected to be fully functional by the end of the year.

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