Brazil in Africa: cooperation and business

Friday 31 May 2013

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español] [Português]

Authorship: Roberto Bisiio

Editorial and Canal: Third World Network (TWN)

Type of document: News

Language: Spanish

Theme: Debt cancellation

Keywords: Humanitarian actions, Humanitarian actions, bilateral cooperation

Countries and Regions: Brazil and Africa

In Brazil is considered to be very rude going to a party and arriving with empty hands. As since she was the only non African female Head of State attending the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the continental integration organization, Dilma Rousseff not only brought to Addis Ababa words of friendship but also brought a gift: the cancellation of the debts of about twelve African countries, with an estimated value of almost nine hundred million dollars.

This figure overpass the total received as official development assistance by Brazil, who then turns to be a net donor country, without loosing the official condition of a developing country. This is not just a philanthropic step, since as Rousseff explained at a press conference, “without this cancellation I cannot have relations with them, both related to investments, financing of Brazilian companies in the African countries and trade with a higher added value”.

When Lula da Silva started to devote a large part of his diplomatic efforts and of his personal time to develop relations with countries from the South, this policy was seen as ideological and not too pragmatic by Brazilian entrepreneurial means. But in a period of ten years trade between Brazil and Africa multiplied by five, going from US$ 5000 million in 2002 to US$26 millions in 2012. Almost half of these exports are manufactures a much higher proportion than in the set of Brazilian exports, where industrial products, with more added value than the agricultural or mineral raw materials represent only one third of the total.

In these ten years Brazil increased from sixteen to thirty seven its embassies in Africa and the development Brazilian Bank BNDES began granting credit lines, either for the construction of an airport in Mozambique or for the installing of electronic collection means in the South African buses. Most of the credits are concentrated in Angola, where the Brazilian construction company Oderbrecht has turned to be the main employer in the country, but during the visit by Rousseff Brazilian credits in the amount of one thousand million dollars were informed for railways in Ethiopia, the host country of the African Union.

The state company Petrobras and the mining company Vale are two other large investors in Africa, quite often competing with Chinese companies for prospection and exploitation of the subsoil. Behind these two giants, scores of medium and small size companies are setting foot in the continent as suppliers or subcontractors. The low cost Brazilian airline Gol informed about the next inauguration of a direct line between Sao Paulo and Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria. This flight will shorten in two hours the direct flight from Miami.

Aside of the geographical proximity, on either size of the South Atlantic, Brazil and Africa have a common history that is just being written and a similar soil and climate. Tropical medicine developed by the Fundación Osvaldo Cruz gives origin to a set of cooperation agreements, inter alia one with Mozambique to locally produce generic drugs against HIV/AIDS. Also the Brazilian agency for agriculture investigation Embrapa is working in the adaptation to the Sahel of its experience on the arid nature of the hills. In particular, Brazil cooperates with Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali in the improvement of cotton. In a simultaneous way at the World Trade Organization, it confronts together with all these countries the subsidies given by the US to its own cotton growers, which directly damage those countries (and also Brazil).

In the are of renewable energy, something well known by Rousseff after being the minister in that sector during Lula’s term, Brazil is actively promoting its technologies to obtain etanol from the biomass, in particular from sugar cane. In several occasions the Brazilian lady President has compared ethanol with solar energy, promoted by Europeans, whom she considers “a crime against Africa, since it generates technological dependence.

While Rousseff was toasting with her African peers for “our common and broad interests” and for a South-South cooperation “for the benefit of both parties”\, the former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa was harshly criticizing the commercial agreements the European Union is negotiating with Africa. According to his criteria, the proposal at present on the table “will hinder the development of African countries, will lead to de-industrialization and will stop the attempts to add value to exported goods, by denying access to markets”, while the European producers will benefit with a lowering on the tariff and taxes.

The European Union continues being the main source of assistance to Africa, but African countries consider as “partners” Brazil and China. In a reverse sense, the image of Sub-Saharan Africa in the developed world continues being that of a miserable region, immersed in the most absolute poverty. Brazilian diplomats and entrepreneurs, instead, see economies growing at a seven per cent rate per year and a continent in which eleven countries already are having a per capita income higher than the one in Bolivia.

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