Will Brazil Maintain a South-South Development Partnership with Africa?

President Lula da Silva is recognized as the first Brazilian president to be active in international and African policy; his increased foreign engagement resulted in greater investment, trade, and aid. The south-south co-operation, as labeled by President Lula, was originally presented as an altruistic development relationship and began with the president’s diplomatic visits to 29 African states on 12 separate occasions, as well as the establishment of 34 African Embassies in Brasilia.[1] Government also funded development projects in Mozambique, Angola, and Nigeria through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Private corporations followed suit and invested in oil, mining, and construction in Libya, Namibia, and Tanzania.[2]

Between 2003 and 2013 Brazil became engaged in the agricultural, natural resources, and social development sectors in several African nations. By 2009, 6.6% of Brazil’s total imports were from African countries and Brazil was Africa’s third largest trading partner behind China and the United States.[3] This increase in trade is due to private infrastructural investment for oil extraction and agricultural assistance from EMBRAPA which increased production and expanded both markets. In 2004 the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger began to provide technical assistance to African governments to develop and implement social protection programs, offering their own expertise in developing social programs like Bolsa Familia and Minha Casa Minha Vida.[4] Brazil has been a partner to African nations by empowering governments and employing the local workforce whereas Chinese investors import their own workforce.

The 2010 elections brought President Lula’s foreign policy position into question. Candidate and future President Dilma Rousseff promised to continue and strengthen Brazil’s relationship with developing nations. However, her competitor, Jose Serra, hoped to refocus Brazil’s foreign policy to improve Latin American relations. [5] Despite President Rousseff’s campaign she has actually distanced herself from Brazilian-African relations. One reason for this change in policies was because of heavy domestic criticism on a debt restructuring policy for 12 African countries Rousseff announced in 2013.[6] Her inexperience internationally and failed attempt at diplomacy in Africa raises the question: if diplomatic relations fade, will Brazil remain a partner in development with Africa?

Changes in the markets and increased investment in Africa by France, the UK, and the US are complicating factors to Brazilian development prospects in Africa. Natural Resource markets are becoming crowded and a greater demand for consumer goods and services is emerging; however, if Brazilian investors and development agencies can adjust to these changes in the market then perhaps the south-south co-operation can continue to be productive.[7] Unfortunately, the current economic recession in Brazil casts doubt on African policy and investment improvements happening within the next year.

Amy Wallace
MPP ’16


[1] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

[2] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[3] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[4] 2011. Brazil’s Economic Engagement with Africa. The African Development Bank Group. http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/Brazil’s_Economic_Engagement_with_Africa_rev.pdf

[5] 2010. Factbox – Positions of Brazil’s Leading Candidates. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/11/brazil-election-issues-idUSN3013312120100111?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a49:g43:r1:c0.500000:b29738878:z0

[6] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

[7] Muggah, R. Thompson, N. 2015. What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?. Washington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-muggah/what-is-brazil-really-doi_b_6413568.html

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