Another Colombo?

Gregory Nelson, a 2020 participant in the national security stream, has sent me his idea that he thought might interest people. He’s happy to read comments below, or for people to email him at gregnelson {AT}

The 1951 Colombo Plan supported unstable and developing Asian nations by building human capacity through a multilateral scholarship exchange program. The Colombo Plan, driven by Australia, was one of Australia’s most successful pieces of foreign policy that had substantial and recognised benefits to the region. It is recognized at the highest level of the UN that major capacity building projects are needed if sub-Saharan African countries are to attempt to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Thus a new Colombo Plan is needed, but for sub-Sahara Africa. A large scale scholarship program is an effective means of quickly transferring knowledge and technology into countries, and continues to produce outcomes for the life time of scholarship recipients. Australia has the expertise, structures, and history in operating the Colombo Plan to make it an effective and appropriate contribution to foreign aid and one that is amplified by the other countries that were part of the original Colombo Plan. The benefits to Australia are threefold. First, a program on this nature, lead by Australia would further establish Australia as a key education destination. Currently education is the 3rd largest export for Australia, contributing $11.6 billion to the Australian economy. Second, similar to Australia, Africa is a resource rich continent. One third of our exports are resource based, we have some of the largest resource companies in the world. Contributing to building a stable, more capable African continient lays the foundation for increased investment of which our companies are exceptionally well placed. And finally, undertaking a program of this kind creates international good will and prestige for Australia and is something that as Australians we can be proud of.

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8 Responses to Another Colombo?

  1. Patrick says:

    I think that’s a great idea.

  2. AJ says:

    Colombo is a policy success that we still speak of, the positive ramifications of which are still felt. Many Colombo alumni now occupy postions of influence in their home countries while maintainging strong ties to Australia. This builds our reputation and influence in our region and fosters good will between nations and peioples. A Colmbo 2.0 would be a most welcome policy initiative

  3. ChrisPer says:

    The success of Colombo was partly the result of core social values of the very hard-working cultural attitudes of the people who participated.

    Sub-saharan Africa, in my experience, has numbers of such good people, but also a staggeringly dependent and exploitative culture of inverted paternalism.

  4. Molesworth says:

    It strikes me that there may be a brain drain issue here. If we pick the best and the brightest from sub-Saharan Africa and give them an education that would allow them to command large salaries in the West, I suspect that some at least won’t want to go back. Good for Australia but perhaps not so good for Africa (although I’m far from sure about this). I remember reading that this was a problem with highly able young people from Africa who were trained to be doctors – many moved to the West as soon as they could. Of course, this is not all bad for the home country, with remittances etc, and some at least would go back (which is why I’m not necessarily against the idea).

    Does anyone know how the Colombo Plan addressed this issue, or if it did? Or wasn’t it an issue because we still had the White Australia policy?

    This sort of thing is an issue with points-based immigration schemes as well – we cherry pick exactly the sort of people who the home country can least afford to lose. Sort of like, in Australian terms, the smart young kids from the bush all ending up in Sydney and Melbourne where they can earn more.

  5. Gregory Nelson says:

    Molesworth, I can tell you right now that the Colombo Plan specifically put measures in place for such an issue. Bonded return of the individual to the recipient country is one of the bedrock conditions that enable the program to work.

    You make a very good point on the poor form of western countries who have stripped qualified doctors out of Africa. I read somewhere that there are more Malawi doctors trained outside of the country, than in it. It’s disgraceful.

  6. Gregory Nelson says:

    Correction: Words in wrong order.

    There are more Malawi-trained doctors outside the country, than in it.

  7. Patrick says:

    Calm down, Gregory.

    we cherry pick exactly the sort of people who the home country can least afford to lose

    Alternatively, we save them the joy of drowning/starving/suffocating/etc in a container in some benighted sea-lane miles from their desired destination. They don’t usually leave because there is a marginal difference between the two!

  8. Gregory Nelson says:

    I am not exactly sure what you are talking about there Patrick, those are not my comments?

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