Magazine article African Business

Brazil to Deepen Ties with Africa: Brazil, under President Lula, Is Emerging as a Major Economic and Political Force on the Global Stage. Part of the New Strategy Is to Develop Strong Links with Africa, with Which It Has an Ancient Cultural and Ethnic Link. Faycal Benhassain Reports

Magazine article African Business

Brazil to Deepen Ties with Africa: Brazil, under President Lula, Is Emerging as a Major Economic and Political Force on the Global Stage. Part of the New Strategy Is to Develop Strong Links with Africa, with Which It Has an Ancient Cultural and Ethnic Link. Faycal Benhassain Reports

Article excerpt

The 2002 election of Luis Ignacio da Silva, popularly known as Lula, as Brazil's new president signalled a profound change in Brazil's international relations. As a committed socialist, Lula had always believed that Brazil should forge closer economic and political relations with developing countries, especially those in Africa.

Determined to begin a new era of co-operation with the entire continent, and not solely with fellow Lusophone countries, Lula made his first trip to Africa in November 2003.

He visited South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique as well as Sao Tome and Principe. Shortly afterwards he made further visits to Libya and Egypt, and it is no coincidence that Brazil is opening new embassies in Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Kinshasa and Yaounde.

Why this new focus on Africa? "Firstly," says Lauro Barbosa da Silva Moreira, director of the Brazilian Agency of Cooperation (ABC) "because Brazil is itself an African country."

According to the latest census figures, the country's population has increased tenfold in the last century to reach some 175m--some 70% of whom are of African heritage.

"Our co-operation with Africa was already important, but what is new is our increased co-operation with non-Lusophone African countries. That has been increasing since Lula became president."

Yet Brazil, as a middle income country, still receives development funding from industrialised nations and international organisations. "For instance, in what we call bilateral relationships, we receive funds for environmental and social projects in the Amazonia and Nordeste regions of the country," explains Moreira. "Germany has been working with us for 40 years on various technical projects. We also have had co-operation projects with the UK for a number of years."

However, the UK has substantially reduced its funding following the UN decision to reclassify Brazil as a middle-income country. That decision has obliged Brazil to take responsibility for many former UK-funded projects.

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Moreira is a former Brazilian ambassador to Morocco. His role as director of ABC, a department of Brazil's Foreign Ministry based in the country's political capital Brasilia and with a budget of Brazilian Reals35m ($14m), is to co-ordinate, implement and manage all of Brazil's international co-operation programmes.

"Brazil has always been very active in its international co-operation. But what we call South-South co-operation is increasing," says Moreira. "Brazil has achieved a highly developed position in various areas and can now be compared, in many respects, to many developed countries. This has allowed us to acquire expertise that is probably more appropriate to developing countries than the expertise of richer nations."

Concept of South-South co-operation

According to a study recently published on openDemocracy.net (an online global magazine of politics and culture) the idea of South-South co-operation started to influence the field of development studies in the late 1990s.

It was fuelled by a growing realisation that poor nations might find appropriate low-cost and sustainable solutions to their problems in other developing countries rather than from the rich north, using existing models of how to deal with common problems. For example, if African farmers need boreholes to access water, it surely makes more sense to access India's huge pool of expertise than to send for expensive European water engineers.

"The world's economy is being reshaped by new technologies, services and trade relationships and much of this dynamism is fuelled by ambitious developing countries like Brazil, India and South Africa", openDemocracy reports. Increasingly, developing countries are incorporating this principle into their foreign policies. Lula's initiative is an example of this. "We undertake a lot of co-operation in Africa and in other parts of the world," says Moreira. …

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