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.
Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
The 19th African Union Summit took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this month, on July 15 and 16. The meeting discussed the need for economic development of the continent by means of intra-African trade and partnership with new global emerging players. I was invited by the NGO Fahamu Kenya to participate as a correspondent for the Correio Nagô news site. The purpose of my involvement was to analyze the participation of Brazil in cooperation with the African continent.
It is no secret that Brazil has been significantly increasing its influence in Africa. Under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) 17 new diplomatic posts were opened, making Brazil the Latin American country with the largest number of embassies on African soil—at 37 posts. Brazil’s budding relationship with Africa demonstrates how Brazil is growing and diversifying its commercial partnerships, which helped Brazil largely weather the economic crisis of 2008. Moreover, the collaboration is part of a Brazilian strategy of consolidating itself as a leader in the South Atlantic and seeking its coveted permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
However, despite the remarkable efforts of the Brazilian government to consolidate its leadership and influence in Africa, we can see is that there are still many challenges. Other emerging countries like China and India have invested far more in Africa. For example, the new $200 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa was donated and built by the Chinese and is a symbol of this new era of African politics, where Western influence has been increasingly reduced and China increasingly magnified. Plus, one-fifth of all petroleum used in India comes from Africa. India's trade with Africa doubled in the last four years, from $24.98 billion in 2006-07, to $52.81 billion in 2010-11, per Indian government figures.
However, Chinese and Indian investments are also criticized because they do not necessarily promote local workforce training nor respect human rights. Some believe that China and India only seek exploitation of natural resources. On the other hand, some analysts see the investments as positive for African countries to have more partners with whom to negotiate investments—a privilege once confined to Western countries.
Four chances, four victories. As predicted, all four original MERCOSUR nations have now gone through to the round of eight in the World Cup, joining three teams from Europe and one from Africa. Only one team from South America has been eliminated (Chile), and it was bounced by another team from the region (Brazil). Head to head against competition from outside the hemisphere, South America continues to impress. From the opening round, the region has been a dominating presence in this year’s tournament.
It wasn’t always easy or pretty, witness Paraguay’s shootout victory over a motivated Japanese team, but to this point, South America has gotten the job done. Moving forward to the final four, however, will be another thing altogether. There are no “gimme” games at this point; both the Brazil-Netherlands and the Argentina-Germany games could be legitimate championship games this year, were the teams not destined to meet in the round of eight. It’s possible that the winners of these two games could well meet up in the actual final.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.