Cameroon and Australia share a long-standing history of cooperation and the new High Commissioner of Australia to Cameroon has promised to work tooth and nail in deepening the ties for the good of the two countries and peoples. In an interview with Cameroon Tribune on Friday February 28, 2020, a day after presenting the advanced copies of her letters of credence at the Ministry of External Relations, Claire Ireland said she will strive to deepen reflection between Cameroon and Australia for the mutual benefits of the two countries. The Australian diplomat observed that besides mining and education, sectors in which their presence is already being felt in Cameroon, agriculture could also be explored. Claire Ireland hopes to put her over 20-year job experience to bear in her term of office in Cameroon for the two countries to get to know each other better so as to cooperate deeply.
Mme Claire Ireland, you are the new High Commissioner of Australia to Cameroon. What appraisal do you make of bilateral cooperation between Cameroon and Australia thus far?
✕Powered by ExploreadsIt is a very targeted relationship. We focus mainly on the mining sector and education. So, these are the two areas we work in. We don’t have a separate bilateral aid programme here in Cameroon. We give our aid financing through the multilateral channels. So, we work with the UN, the World Bank to give aid assistance to Cameroon. At the bilateral level, our focus is on mining and education.
As a new High Commissioner of Australia to Cameroon, how do you intend; during your tenure, to boost this cooperation for the mutual benefits of the two countries.
One of the things I believe is very important is the understanding of the two countries. We have a couple of mining industries here and I think what is important is for Cameroon to learn from Australia on how the mining sector works so that as it develops its mining sector, it can see from around the world different models and examples on the mining sector. In September, we have something called Africa Down Under Conference Australia and we will be inviting the mining Minister to come and see the mining sector. We will offer to show him the different mining companies like bauxite and iron ore mines so that he can see firsthand what the mine operation looks like. But also, the Africa Down Under Conference exposes Africa and also the different investment options. So, we have several Australian companies which are interested in investing in Africa that participate in the forum. One of the first things I will be doing here is to ensure a deeper and better understanding between Cameroon and Australia.
You earlier talked about education. Can you elaborate on what has been done thus far and what you intend to do in this domain? So far, the Australian government has sponsored 134 Cameroonians to study in Australia on short courses, a lot in the mining sector but also in other sectors like health. Through the short courses, we enable and expose Cameroonians to Australian education. That is something we will continue to do as well as encourage Cameroonians to study in Australia. We have six of the hundred best world universities in Australia. But also, Australia is the gateway for South East Asia and the Pacific. So, it’s a great place to come and study and we will certainly encourage more Cameroonians to look to the Australian market.
We already have Australian companies in Cameroon, like the Sundance Resources Limited which is working towards developing iron ore in Mbalam. How do you intend to encourage other Australian companies to get interested in the existing investment-friendly sectors in Cameroon?
You are right, Sundance Resources company is here, but there is another Australian company here called Canyon Resources involved in bauxite mine and they are exploring furthermore in Cameroon. These are already two companies here with the highest environmental, social and community standards. In terms of encouraging further investors, I think this is where; as I said, there is need for better understanding between the two countries. The upcoming forum in Australian will be an opportunity for Cameroon to come and get exposed to what Australian companies do but if Cameroon is able to participate in that conference, they will meet a number of Australian investors. So, it is an opportunity for Cameroon to come and share the potential investment opportunities with Australian investors and for Australian investors to meet with Cameroon’s Ministers and discuss opportunities. That will be my very first priority here to try and engage a dialogue between the two countries on the sector. Agriculture is a potential sector. Cameroon and Australia have similar climate. You know Australia is a very big country and so it will be an opportunity to share skills and knowledge on technology in the agriculture sector.
You are taking up function as High Commissioner at a time Cameroon is going through a series of security challenges notably in the Far North, North West and South West regions. As a friend, how do you intend to bring your country into supporting the many initiatives in place aimed at reinstalling normalcy in the country?