Many people are discussing Brazil’s role in Africa’s development and the deepening of their bilateral commercial and political relationships over the past decade. For Brazil, Africa is seen as one of the best growth opportunities and a new frontier for investments. Many of Brazil’s largest infrastructure companies are currently operating in Africa and looking to expand their outreach in the vast African continent. For Africa, Brazil has made great strides in developing advanced technology in agriculture and tropical medicines, which, if shared, could be adapted in Africa.
But there is still much skepticism from African nations as to the real motivations for Brazil’s interest in the region. Is this is a case of market access advantage only? Or is it an imposition of soft power or even a case of reverse colonization?
The Council of the Americas hosted a panel in Washington DC earlier this year on the political and economic ties between Brazil and Africa and what may be next steps for the future. The Brazilian government strongly advocates that its relationship with African countries is different and friendlier than other countries’ (i.e., China) approaches toward Africa. Also, there are numerous commonalities between Brazil and the African countries including the language (in the case of Lusophone countries), historic background, and similar geological and climate conditions—all of which bring the two giants closer together as natural partners.
But it is also hard to ignore that the commercial relationship between Brazil and Africa at present consists largely of exploration of African natural resources by Brazilian companies and exports of Brazilian products to African countries. This is not so much a two-way partnership as it is one country with more know-how and expertise selling products to a group of countries without these advancements.