Peter Jennings, Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, writes:

I have been taken out of context by Joel Negin, who refers to me in a recent Interpreter blog on the importance of Africa in this way:

The Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recently referred to Africa as 'the dark continent', demonstrating a remarkable and scarily ossified 19th century view of Africa.

The only thing scarily ossified here is the capacity of 21st century academics to appreciate context. This is what I said on the ABC's 7:30 program on January 21, when asked about the strategic importance of Africa:

Australia, I think, is going to have to take a deeper interest in the strategic affairs of Africa, because in North Africa in particular, I think we face the risk that al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda affiliate organisations will seek to try to operate in some of the ungoverned spaces which exist across the north of the continent.

And also because we're on the Security Council now, Leigh, which means to say that a very large part of the Security Council's business this year is going to be engaged with African affairs.

Australia will have to look again at the "dark continent" if I can put it that way. Improve what we know about it and start to take it much more seriously.

I was, in effect, arguing precisely the same point as Dr Negin.

In support of the case that Australia needs to pay more attention to Africa, ASPI has recently published a major study on Chinese resource interests in Africa, titled Fuelling the Dragon: Natural Resources and China's Development, and we have actively blogged on Mali in our ASPI Strategist site. ASPI is also planning some substantial future activities in cooperation with South Africa's Brenthurst Foundation designed to strengthen engagement between Australia and Africa.