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Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa

Brazil Boosts Africa’s New Future

Brazil has much more to offer to a modernizing sub-Saharan Africa than it is now providing. Given its proximity to Africa, its size (a third of the African continent south of the Sahara desert), its wealth, its long association with Africa from the slave-trading era, its political and economic successes after decades of authoritarian military rule, its educational levels, its superior technical and financial knowledge, its detailed involvement with urban problems and solutions, and its vast experience  taming and destroying swaths of inhospitable environment, Brazil’s interactions with and influence upon the destiny of sub-Saharan Africa today yet remains  underwhelming.  This failure is especially telling now that Brazil and South Africa are anointed middle powers linked via BRICS to the global juggernauts of China, India, and Russia.

Notwithstanding Brazil’s own weak economic performance in 2014-2015, its unfolding Petrobras corruption scandal in 2015 and innumerable other intra-national woes, Brazil in the twenty-first century could play a much larger and more forceful role in sub-Saharan Africa than it has, or seems poised to want to undertake. If it chose to do so under President Rousseff or a successor, Brazil could project its abundant soft power in a continent responsive to Brazil’s post-colonial posture and Brazil’s ambition to lead the developing world. Despite its traditional South American focus and Western Hemispheric ties, Brazil possesses the kinds of entrepreneurial and governmental talent that is lacking in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and that is much needed to assist African nations as they emerge from the grip of under-development.  In 2015, a majority of the forty-nine nation-states of sub-Saharan Africa were growing in terms of annual average GDPs at more than 5 percent a year, and many, thanks to Chinese commodity purchases and other investments, have been doing so for several years and at higher rates.  Even if Brazil continues to grow more slowly than China, it has an under-used capacity to assist African states to thrive and their peoples to continue to improve domestic standards of living.

Outreach to Africa

As far back as the 1970s, Brazil actively tried to build capacity in Africa in a few technical areas, but primarily in Lusophone countries. By the end of that decade, technical cooperation between Brazil and a several African countries was underway, and Brazil diplomatically was beginning to pay attention to Africa, virtually for the first time since the nineteenth century. But Brazil was absorbed then, and throughout much of the remainder of the twentieth century, in establishing its own post-military democratic path, and in modernizing its own economy.  It was not really until the end of the century, after sufficient progress socially and economically had been made at home, that Brazil was really in a position seriously to look across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa.  By then it was a strong force in the Western Hemisphere, competing with the United States and its South American neighbors for prominence and global notice. It had reached the threshold of middle power status; Africa finally could become part of Brazil’s foreign policy strategy.

Brazil more and more acknowledged, at least for overseas policy purposes, that Brazil and Africa had a common heritage derived primarily from Brazil’s former status as the globe’s greatest and last major slave importer (from the fifteenth century to 1888), from the inescapable fact that 60 percent of all African slaves exported from their own homes were imported into Brazil, and that African culture, art, and religion had all contributed to the existential mix that is modern Brazil. No nation outside of Nigeria, Brazilians like to remind themselves, has so many Africans as citizens. In no other country have Africans over more than a century played such important roles in economic and social growth.

            The presidency of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) built strongly on these foundations. He inaugurated, largely for the first time in Brazil’s modern history, a serious and sustained attempt to engage with the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. He made state visits to twenty-nine countries on twelve separate occasions, encouraged his foreign ministry to pay close attention to Africa, and sanctioned the opening of nineteen of thirty-seven Brazilian embassies in Africa. (Eighteen African nation-states opened their own embassies in Brasilia during the same period, bringing the total of African missions in Brasilia to thirty-four by 2010.). President Lula da Silva also announced a series of collaborative scientific projects with Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, and South Africa.  Those initiatives were intended to draw heavily on Brazilian expertise, to train local scientists, offer university technical and scientific training to undergraduate and graduate students from Portuguese-speaking African countries, and to send teachers from Brazilian universities to Africa. His administration promised to work jointly with African health ministries to help combat HIV/AIDS, waterborne diseases, and malaria.

President Lula da Silva’s foreign minister was even more active in Africa, making sixty-seven official visits during the same years, and receiving forty-seven African leaders from twenty-seven of sub-Saharan Africa’s forty-nine countries.  He and his ministry joined or inaugurated the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Africa-South America Summit organization, and the India/Brazil/South Africa (IBSA) Forum.

Much of this fevered rapprochement with Africa initiated by President Lula da Silva was intended to mobilize support his quest to obtain a permanent a seat on the UN Security Council.  Those ambitions made sense and were reasonable in this century, and President Lula da Silva consciously sought through his various foreign adventures to bring further prestige to the Brazilian endeavor.  “Africa [was] becoming a space that c[ould] multiply Brazil’s power.”[1]

Likewise, Banco National de Desarollo Economico y Social — BNDES, Brazil’s national development bank, began disbursing nearly $3 billion in grants and loans to Africa after 2007 and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (Agencia Brasileira de Cooperacao — ABC) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) also began backing projects across the continent.  EMBRAPA even opened an office in Ghana in 2006.

“President Lula’s attitude was new,” commented a minister of social development. “Before him, Brazil had its back turned to Africa. The need to go there, do propaganda, transmit openness, was very pressing.”[2]

President Joyce Banda of Malawi, among many others, called Lula da Silva her “hero.” The fact that he “got 20 million people out of poverty…by encouraging entrepreneurship, by supporting small businesses….” was an inspiration.[3]

President Lula da Silva’s approach to Africa was not sustained after he left the presidency, even as he was followed by his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff.  After she became president in 2010, she significantly reduced all of Brazil’s foreign engagements, especially those centered on Africa. But, despite this pulling back from Africa and her signaling to Brazilian development agencies that Brazil wished to focus more on China and Europe, and on the near abroad in Mercosur, she tried during several visits to Africa in 2013 promote Brazilian business as well as diplomatic ties to key partners on the continent. Her approach to Africa was more pragmatic than her predecessor’s and a reflection of her personal priorities as well as diminished national financial resources.[4] Nevertheless, she especially sought to assist Brazilian industrial outreach to Africa by cancelling or restructuring nearly $1 billion worth of debt owed to Brazil by a dozen African nations. (She also agreed to the opening of an embassy in Malawi, Brazil’s thirty-eighth mission in Africa. With that opening, Brazil had the fifth greatest number of embassies in Africa after China, the United States, France, and Russia.)  Among the beneficiaries of her debt forgiveness initiative were the oil- and gas-rich Republic of Congo, copper-dominant Zambia, and Tanzania. Collectively those three countries owed Brazil (from the 1970s) more than $700 million. Owing smaller amounts, but also benefitting, were Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, and the Sudan – a mélange of nation-states with which Brazil obviously once had dealings. That cancellation made it possible for Brazilian corporations legally to invest in the petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, and other resource extraction opportunities presented by Africa.   But this well-intended action by Rousseff was criticized roundly from the left and the right for its failure to distance Brazil from African autocracies, and its failure to accomplish much for Brazilian foreign investment. O Globo headlined its front page article “Dictators Forgiven.”[5]

Rousseff’s first administration consequently pulled back from Africa. According to one prominent business executive, “Lula helped attract the business sector to Africa. Now [in 2013] the business sector is trying to attract Dilma to the continent.”[6]  Corporate endeavors were promoted much less vigorously from Brasilia after President Lula da Silva’s day, and were only accelerated as a result of a fuller appreciation of Africa’s resource opportunities after about 2013. In Angola, for example, Brazil was a major investor through 2010 but was overtaken by Portugal and China until 2014, when its investment position in Angola increased. In late 2013, BNDES decided that Africa had many business opportunities and decided to increase its presence on the continent, especially in Angola, Nigeria, and Ghana, the better to compete with China. Specifically, Brazil realized that it was losing out to China in bidding for infrastructural construction opportunities.  China had 40 percent of the market in that area, Brazil only 3 percent.

Development Cooperation

The big rise in Brazilian development cooperation expenditures everywhere began under President Lula da Silva in 2005 and shot up dramatically in 2010 to nearly $1 billion. But Africa by 2010 was only receiving about $20 million of that total. By 2012, under President Rousseff, that amount had been reduced to nearly $10 million, falling to slightly more than $3 million in 2013.[7] BNDES, however, through 2014 had disbursed nearly $3 billion in trade finance support for Brazilian corporate endeavors in Africa. According to a report generated by Brazil’s Association for Foreign Trade, BNDES was capable of committing about $500 million to Africa in support of Brazilian industrial ventures in that year, and at favorable rates of interest for borrowers for purchases from Brazilian companies.[8]   BNDES also opened an office in 2013 in Johannesburg.

Throughout, however, from Brazil’s point of view, it was “partnering,” not donating, to African and other countries.  This approach derived from Brazil’s sense of common kinship with Africa. Officially, Brazil still thinks of itself as a tropical, equatorial country, having both a geographical and a climatic affinity with much of Africa, especially with the continent’s lowland regions.

Supposedly a hallmark of the partnership relations that Brazil favors is it willingness to let its African cooperating countries decide how Brazil might help them grow and prosper.  As no less a former colony than its African partners, Brazil’s official doctrine declares that, like China, it never seeks to “intervene” in Africa in ways that could appear “colonial” or to take political sides.  That permits it, again like China, to ignore human rights violations by some or many of its partners, to excuse or ignore developmental priorities that increase inequality, foster corruption, or reduce development in key African countries with which Brazil has strong ties – all possibilities that have been heavily criticized in Brazil.

. Of its official development partnership totals, in 2010 nearly a quarter of Brazilian development assistance ($37 million) went to Africa, the second most important region after Latin America. But very little of that sum consisted of financial support. In terms of technical cooperation alone, i.e., the transfer of knowledge-based technical skills, Africa absorbed 40 percent.  Taking both activities together, the most important recipient countries in Africa were all Portuguese-speaking, respectively Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola. Mozambique alone was favored in 2013-2014 with fourteen developmental projects, Sao Tome and Principe with twelve, and Cape Verde with eleven.  Much smaller sums were devoted to work in Benin, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mali, and Senegal.

Brazil prefers to “cooperate” with Africa trilaterally or multilaterally, and do less developmentally (under 50 percent) through bilateral engagements.[9]  Thus, Brazil works together with Japan and the International Labor Organization in some instances. Brazil favors giving assistance in the agricultural arena (26 percent of its total), to humanitarian initiatives (23 percent of its total activity), and to health projects (22 percent), with education and training accounting for only 14 percent of the total expenditures in Africa in 2013.

Agricultural Uplift

EMBRAPA, is Brazil’s national entity for agricultural and livestock research. At home, its mission has included adapting seedlings and other genetic materials from overseas to Brazilian soils and climatic conditions. For example, it promoted the cultivation of soy in the Brazilian highlands, a crop that became a major export and producer of wealth. Overseas, EMBRAPA prefers to operate by engaging in small, limited projects and narrowly-focused capacity-building initiatives; in much larger capacity-enhancing endeavors that involve transferring knowledge through training courses; in upgrading small-scale farming activities by providing expertise; and in long-term structural projects that involve the transfer of major technological advances.

Since 2007, EMBPRAPA has been assisting several African countries to introduce Brazilian soy to African terrain, especially the savannah areas that are similar to the cerrado of the Brazilian highlands. Soils in both regions are acidic and aluminic, and their ability to retain sporadic rainfall water in both cases is low. Yet Brazil has successfully managed to grow soybeans in such soils and under conditions that replicate some of what occurs in Africa. For example, a so-called ProSavana Program has been attempting, in partnership with Japan, to replicate Brazilian successes with soy in the Nacala corridor region that runs through Mozambique to Malawi. In that same area as well as in central Mozambique, Brazil is trying to introduce (or re-introduce) large-scale cotton farming to an area along the Zambezi River which, at one time, knew mostly desultory colonial experiments with cotton production.

EMBPRAPA has also worked from its Ghanaian base to help local expansions of cotton production in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Togo. It has transferred to Africa a variety of cotton seed varieties, many of have been crossed with African seed varieties. It has suggested new methods, based on Brazilian experience, of managing logistical supply chains and subsequent marketing efforts.  It has also transferred its knowledge of how best to manage the integration of cotton with other crops.  But, domestic critics ask, should Brazil be exporting agricultural practices that cause environmental degradation and accelerate the “extinction” of local communities?[10]

Brazil has tentatively transferred its long experience with biofuels to Africa. Brazil is helping Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, and Nigeria to initiate their own bio-energy production schemes.  Beginning in 2006, a BNDES credit line permitted the erection of sugar-cane conversion plants in Angola. Additional credit lines were extended for similar facilities in 2010 to Mozambique and Ghana, enabling the Ghanaians subsequently to sell ethanol to Sweden  (Two major Brazilian banking institutions are also active in providing credit for Brazilian commercial operations in sub-Saharan Africa and have established branches in Angola and Mozambique.) Discussions are underway to assist Malawi with its own embryonic efforts at ethanol production. This is obviously a rich arena for Brazilian-African cooperation. As the globe’s greatest converter of maize, sugar-cane and sugar cane waste (bagesse) to ethanol, and as a nation where re-engineered automobiles can run on pure ethanol, Brazil could in coming years help selected African countries to replace expensive fuel imports (and occasional shortages) with fuel derived from waste agricultural products. If such initiatives are successful, there is a rich and open field for much more extensive Brazilian-African interaction.

An innovative effort with Cameroon focuses on adapting Brazilian agro-genetic experimentation to finding new ways of using African-grown crops such as manioc (cassava) and moringa leaves to feed chickens and improve their nutrition so as to provide more and better quality protein and eggs for Africans.

Ethiopia has created an Agricultural Transformation Agency to undertake cutting-edge research. That effort and the nature of its newly established organization is modeled directly on EMBRAPA. According to one thoughtful commentator, “large African countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Tanzania as well as regional bodies such as the East African Community have a lot to learn from the lessons of EMBRAPA and other Brazilian institutional innovations” in the agricultural field.[11]

Parts of Africa are episodically, if not perpetually, food short. Since Brazil’s own Fome Zero or Zero Hunger Strategy helped measurably to alleviate poverty and food insecurity at home, and because the “right to adequate food” is enshrined in Brazil’s new constitution, Brazil has much to teach Africa on how most effectively to prevent hunger and to strengthen anti-poverty initiatives. Africa could learn from Brazil’s national school feeding program as well as from many subsidiary efforts.  Brazil’s Centre of Excellence against Hunger is yet another institution capable of transferring critical knowledge to Africa.

Brazil’s Program for Food Acquisition in Africa characteristically uses surplus family farm production at home to supply day care centers, primary and secondary schools, and nursing homes with produce. It has introduced the same methods of letting as little locally-grown food as possible go to waste to selected African locations. Brazil has advised Malawi on land redistribution methods.  A More Food Program is active in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. It focuses on smallholder farm development, school feeding efforts, and the delivery of Brazilian tractors to individual growers. More Food has also attempted to transfer other technical inputs to African small-scale farmers, but without many welcoming responses from Africa.  In Malawi, Brazil funds a small project on developing primary school gardens and using produce from them to reduce hunger.

Critics of Brazil’s lack of success in the agricultural arena, especially its inability to achieve enthusiastic acceptance from African nations and the failure of its agricultural outreach to generate investment opportunities in the farming sector, suggests that Brazil has simply deployed too few resources.[12] EMBRAPA’s Ghanaian office employs only a single technical staff person; no similar personnel exist elsewhere in Africa or assigned to embassies. Its initiatives are also vastly overshadowed by those of China and the United States even though Brazil often partners with Japan in the African agricultural arena. Further, Brazilian agribusinesses naturally prefer to profit from lucrative opportunities within Brazil and South America.

Health and Education

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation — FIOCRUZ, a Brazilian federal laboratory and research center, is active in Africa in the health sector.  As the globe’s first country to offer universal access to antiretroviral therapy, it introduced domestically produced antiviral drugs to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa as early as 1997. The drugs are manufactured in Brazil and have been distributed across southern Africa.  FIOCRUZ and ABC together built a pharmaceutical factory in Mozambique that now produces generic versions of twenty-one different medicines, including six antiretroviral treatments, lamivudine, and nevirapine – all essential in combating HIV/AIDS. FIOCRUZ  has also established a masters’ level training program in public health in both Mozambique and Angola. Students in both programs complete their studies in Brazil.

In the educational field, Brazil’s governmental industrial apprenticeship network has established seven vocational training centers in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and South Africa.  It created an Afro-Brazilian University of Integration (UNILAB), with instruction in Portuguese, and launched a Mozambican public television station in Maputo.

Brazil’s cash supplement support program (BOLSA/FAMILIA) for poor citizens has been recognized globally as an innovative solution capable of combating the effects of joblessness and social anomie.  Brazil has promoted this innovative conditional cash-transfer method to Africa, but with very limited success because of the different levels of bureaucratic capacity in Africa, because of administrative misunderstandings, and because of Africa’s average high levels of distrust of any policies so radical and novel.  In some African countries, too, not least the Lusophone ones, there has been an evident distrust of broad-based social mitigation schemes.

In 2015, despite Brazil’s limited impact on Africa’s social transformation, it agreed to partner with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) to fight poverty and enhance gender equality in low-income countries in Africa. Brazil’s International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth and its Institute for Applied Economic Research will carry out most of the work.  Planned is a two-year effort to share with African countries Brazil’s experience designing and implementing social protection endeavors and reducing violence against women. In particular, Brazil intends to work closely with Nigeria to upgrade the technical quality of social development models, drawing on Brazil’s own advances in this area. With other African nations it expects to share best practices on gender quality and on how most effectively to empower women and girls. In Mozambique, Brazil seeks to help reduce child mortality rates and simultaneously to improve maternal health outcomes.  Cash transfers to strengthen social protection, a policy platform pioneered by Brazil, will be central to all of these existing and newly contemplated developmental initiatives.

Developmental Coordination

Despite all of this engagement with Africa, Brazil’s development activities are not well- coordinated.  One critic refers to Brazil’s “considerable institutional fragmentation” and lack of any centralized planning as it attempted under President Lula da Silva and tries now under President Rousseff to assist Africa cooperatively.[13] The Foreign Ministry; ABC; the ministries of agriculture, health, and education and social development;  state enterprises like EMBRAPA, FIOCRUZ, SENAI, BolsaFamilia; and BNDES are all engaged in Africa, but without central direction, or, occasionally, token coordination.  Redundancies result. Effective evaluation may also be much more difficult if individual projects are more subject to scrutiny than are whole programs and large-scale holistic approaches.

This lack of congruency has also led to Brazilian efforts in Africa being driven by diverging philosophies of development, not necessarily a bad result, but one which causes questionable excess expenditures.  For example, the separate Brazilian-led attempts to promote large-scale and family-scale agricultural productivity in the same country, Mozambique, at the same time, may produce positive outcomes, or sow confusion.[14]

In the health area, Brazil has long considered medical treatment a universal entitlement, as enshrined in the 1988 constitution. Most African nations maintain public health systems, but they work differently, are less generous, and more corrupt. Furthermore, Brazil’s excellently-intended initiatives in Mozambique are affected by how they are judged successful according to very different understandings of HIV/AIDS there (and in the rest of Africa). African and Brazilian respective HIV/AIDS epidemics began differently, Africa’s among the urban and later the rural poor and Brazil’s among well-off gay groups. As a result, the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, promoted by civil society in Brazil, has occurred differently in much less wealthy, state-dominated Africa.  In this domain and in other medically-related areas, Brazilian best practices and lessons learned may not apply as fully to Africa as Brazil seems to have assumed.

A Common Experience?

Brazilian critics wonder, too, if the common heritage and other parallel notions of similarity are not exaggerated.  In the twenty-first century, Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, Brazil and the Lusophone small island states, and Brazil and the much larger and mostly resource-rich mainland African states are developing very differently. Brazil is even a radically different kind of society, with impressive solutions to many contemporary political and social problems (and sufficient unresolved problems) from South Africa, its theoretical equal in BRICS.   Brazil may be African-influenced because of the legacy of slavery. Its soils and some of its rainfall patterns may be reminiscent of parts of equatorial Africa, but these similarities are overshadowed by such fundamental discontinuities as much higher degrees of literacy and education, especially a much more mature system of both tertiary and vocational education; a more advanced medical system; a mechanized and large-scale agricultural experience (with all its environmental flaws) that is far more extensive than Africa’s; urban and conurbation dilemmas of governance and service delivery that are more sophisticated and much more endangering than those of Africa; and an industrial base that far surpasses even South Africa’s (and the rest of Africa’s) dependence upon resource extraction and on Chinese purchasing power.   Brazil needs to rethink its partnership strategy, possibly accept its medium power status, and begin to think of foreign assistance rather than foreign cooperation.  Brazil has much to teach Africa, and Africa much to learn from Brazil.  But pre-BRICS notions of complementarity and shared experience are both incorrect and immature. They also retard African growth prospects.

Resource Extraction and Industrial Development

Brazil’s foreign direct investment in Africa increased from $69 billion in 2001 to $214 billion in 2009 and to XXX  But in sub-Saharan Africa those totals were only $281 million in 2001 and $124 million [sic] in 2009[15]

In 2013, Brazilian trade with Africa reached nearly $29 billion, up from $4 billion in 2000; its main partners, however,  were the European Union (25 percent),  South America (16 percent), the US  (12 percent), and China (5 percent). Africa represented 5 percent of that trade, but  sub-Saharan Africa only 3 percent. Overall, sub-Saharan Africa’s share of Brazilian total trade was less than 7 percent of exports and 10 percent of imports.  Brazil’s largest sub-Saharan African trading partners in 2014 were Nigeria (32 percent of the total), Angola (16 percent), and South Africa (7 percent). Half of all exports are manufactured products, sugar, and meat, with capital goods exports increasing in very recent years.  Imports consisted primarily of resource commodities such as petroleum, coal, and iron ore.[16]

Brazilian industries are active in twenty-two African countries, predominantly in southern Africa (Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa).  There are the big corporations – Petrobras, Andrade Gutierrez, Vale do Rio Doce, Camargo Correia, and Odebrecht —  and a raft of small- and medium-sized enterprises such as O Boticario (a cosmetics company) and Nobel (both of which work in Angola). In sub-Saharan Africa, these small- and medium-sized firms own supermarkets, process manioc (cassava), make ceramics, supply and maintain software, and grow flowers.

Petrobras pumps oil in Angola and Nigeria and searches for new deposits in Benin, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania.

Odebrecht, a major construction company, has been active in Africa since the 1980s, building a big dam near Malanje and the country’s first shopping mall in Luanda. Odebrecht is Angola’s largest employer.[17] Odebrecht also has constructed residential condominiums, worked with Petrobras on oil and gas installations, and been active in food distribution in South Africa, Botswana (where it built an important dam), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti (fuel terminals), Gabon (oil-well services), Liberia, and Mozambique. Camargo Correia has erected social housing in Ghana and urban planning initiatives and housing in Angola, where it has also built roads and power lines. In Mozambique, it constructed a hydroelectric project on the Zambezi River downstream from Cahora Bassa. Andre Gutierrez, another construction firm, builds harbors, housing, and sanitation projects in Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Mozambique.

Vale’s operations near Moatize in Mozambique digs up 4000 tons of coal an hour, and ships it to Brazil and China via a newly-re-constructed, newly re-purposed rail line through Malawi to the Mozambican port of Nacala, 620 miles northeast, much of it built by Odebrecht.  It is Vale’s largest undertaking outside of Brazil. Vale is Mozambique’s major employer and investor, but its alleged abuses of African labor and its removal of more than 1000 families to make from for the mine has been the subject of significant protests by local communities who claimed that their new settlements are less fertile and less well-watered than the original ones.  (Vale promised to improve housing and provide buses between the new village and Tete, the provincial capital.) In Guinea, too, Vale has been accused of using underhanded tactics to acquire a central iron ore mining concession.

Vale began to invest in Africa in 2004 and, in addition to Mozambique and Guinea, has had projects in the DRC, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, and South Africa.  Between 2010 and 2015 it invested almost $20 million south of the Sahara. Beyond, coal, it mines copper in Angola and cobalt and has explored for nickel.

Marcopolo is one of the biggest manufacturers of bus bodies in the world. It set up operations in 2000 in Gauteng Province and expanded in 2008, being one of the few Brazilian companies that have been successful in sub-Saharan Africa outside of the resource extraction and related pursuits area, and outside construction.

The big difference between Brazil and China in Africa is that Brazilian firms routinely hire Africans and claim, pace the Vale experience, to treat their workers well. Chinese companies refuse as often as possible to employ Africans, sometimes even as laborers on construction projects, and are much more reluctant than the Brazilians to transfer technological and managerial expertise to their African employees and subsidiary enterprises. In 2012, 90 percent of Odebrecht’s workers and 85 percent of Vale’s were indigenous and local.[18]


Nigeria is woefully energy short. As sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous nation, with at least 170 million people and a predicted 730 million in 2100, its cash-starved electrical generating capacity is no larger than that of Washington, D. C. or Ottawa. (Spain produces more power than all of sub-Saharan Africa.)  For that reason, it will help President Muhammadu Buhari’s newly elected government of Nigeria to realize many of its development goals when Benco Energy of Brazil completes the construction of a $900 million, 700 megawatt oil-fired electricity producing facility in Bayelsa State, probably in 2019. This is the first of a series of ventures to improve Nigeria’s power supply agreed upon by Nigerian Federal Ministry of Power and Electrobras, the Brazilian state company, to provide plants capable of generating as much as 10,000 MW of electricity.

As one mark of Brazil’s current connection to Africa, in 2016 or 2017 Angola (and Africa) and Brazil for the first time will be connected by a Japanese supplied fibre-optic submarine cable, enabling high speed and high capacity data transmissions for the Internet and telecoms.

The Narcotics Connection

Another poorly recognized and more nefarious connection between Brazil and Africa is driven by the export of drugs and organized crime.  According to the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime, seizures of Brazilian supplied cocaine and heroin in West Africa increased tenfold between 2005 and 2009, from 25 tons to 260 tons.  This amount represents only 15 percent of South American cocaine destined, via Brazil, for Africa and Europe, but it has added measurably to growing problems in countries such as Portuguese-speaking Guinea-Bissau, Benin, and Ghana.[19]

Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru are cocaine growers and refiners that share relatively porous borders with Brazil. Marijuana from Paraguay also enters Brazil and exits to West Africa en route there or to Europe. From Brazil, most of the illicit shipments are by air (private in big executive jets or as commercial cargo) across the Atlantic Ocean to Angola and Nigeria, and then on to the countries listed above.  It is suspected that much of the resulting smuggling operations to Europe are, at least in part, controlled by gangs connected to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Iranian-backed Hezbollah (from Lebanon). Profits from these extensive trafficking ventures, and from the fallout from civil wars such as those in Mali and Libya, helps to support the activities of a selection of Muslim terrorist groups, even Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Although President Rousseff’s Strategic Border Plan gives Brazil’s army the authority to patrol its borders and raid narcotics facilities and operations, at one point there were at least thirty-four border crossing points controlled as much by criminal gangs as by the Brazilian police.  Brazil also joined a UNODC-sponsored initiative funded by Canada and the European Commission to encourage anti-smuggling information with  Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.  The African Union has pledged to assist this effort as well. Brazil could, naturally, do much more to provide resources and technical assistance to those West African nations where the trade in narcotics has overwhelmed local customs and police forces.

What More Should Brazil Do?

Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s recent commodity-backed growth spurt, its people are the least literate, the least healthy, and the least wealthiest on the globe.  Brazil, a much more mature, balanced, and sophisticated state than any in sub-Saharan Africa (than even South Africa, its BRICS partner), and many of its more assertive commercial entities, backed by the Brazilian foreign ministry, official development banks and state-connected research bodies, are investing in African minerals, petroleum, and gas; are manufacturing in a modest manner; and busy building roads, railways, housing estates, and other infrastructural projects for a variety of Lusophone and non-Lusophone African nations – all in competition with Chinese state-owned and private concerns.  Trade between Africa and Brazil is increasing, but predominantly in commodities rather than services or consumer goods.   Brazil is also officially active in helping selected African countries to alleviate hunger and poverty and to improve agricultural practices.

None of this private and public outreach should be faulted, the more so when large Brazilian extractive industries strengthen their labor practices, especially in mining. But what is missing under President Rousseff, in contrast to President Lula da Silva, is a deep interest and the expression of an affinity for Africa and various needy African nations. Conceivably, given Brazil’s much vaunted sense of mutual heritage with Africa, its diplomatic need for global friends, its desire to trade more heavily and profitably with other nations in the global South, and its appreciation of the enormous good it could do in Africa, will propel Brazil to re-think its mission, the better to assist Africa developmentally.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing faster than any other part of the planet. By the end of the twenty-first century, India will be the world’s largest country, followed by China, and then by Nigeria, with about 730 million inhabitants (up from today’s 170 million). Asia as a whole will have 4 billion people, sub-Saharan Africa a city-busting and resource challenging 3.6 billion.Even more surprising, after the United States and Pakistan, the sixth largest country will be Tanzania, with a projected 212 million. According to UN population division estimates, Indonesia follows, and then the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 212 million.  Brazil’s total population will only be 200 million.[20]

Africa’s cities will bulge, her young people will comprise 50 percent of most national populations through 2075 if not longer. Given inexperienced leadership, poor governance, much corruption, an economic dependence on resource extraction (largely for China) – which may not be sustained – Africa will need for the next several decades the kind of guidance that only a confident middle power that has dealt with issues of transition from authoritarianism to democracy; that has tried to tame cities; coped with crime, drugs, and youth; and knows its own weaknesses and inequalities, can offer.  Brazil has much to offer to Africa that will be valuable as Africa attempts to eke out a demographic dividend from its population explosion, and as it shifts from being rural to being overwhelmingly urban.

Brazil’s challenge is to project itself confidently into Africa, the better for Brazil’s sense of itself and for its reputation as a middle power, and the better for the development of Africa.




[1] Sebastian Santander, “Africa and Brazil: Brazil’s African Strategy is a Quest for Power, Profit and Sharing Knowledge,” Africa at LSE, Feb. 3, 2014, 3;

[2]  Tereza Campello, quoted in  “Dilma’s Government Implements ‘African Agenda’ to Expand Relations,” Africa Up Close, Woodrow Wilson International Center,  Oct. 31, 2013,

[3] Quoted in Tom de Bruyn, :Brazil, China and South Africa in Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi,” working paper 13  (2014), 9;  Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies,

[4] Paolo de Renzio, et al, “Solidarity Among Brothers? Brazil in Africa: Trade, Investment and Cooperation,” Policy Brief, BRICS Policy Center,  Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro,  February, 2014,  10

[5] “Brazil Continues to Forgive Debts of African Dictatorships,” in Africa Up Close, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Aug. 8, 2013;

[6] “Dilma’s ‘African Agenda,’” 3.  But see Santander,  “Africa and Brazil,” 2

[7] Renzio et al, “Solidarity,” 14


[8] “BNDES Expands its Presence in Africa,” Africa Up Close, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Dec. 12, 2013, 2 . See also Robert Muggah, “What is Brazil Really Doing in Africa?” Jan. 4, 2015; http://www.huffington

[9] For many of the details of Brazil’s development activities in Africa, see Andre de Mello e Souza, “Brazil’s Development Cooperation in Africa: A New Model?”  in BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation,  unpub. Papers of the fifth BRICS Academic Forum (Pretoria, 2014), 96-107

[10] Pronunciamento da UNAC sobre o Programa ProSavana, Oct. 11, 2012,

[11] Calestous Juma, “”Africa and Brazil at the Dawn of New Economic Diplomacy,”  Feb. 26, 2013,


[12] Kojo Sebastian Amanor,  “South-South Cooperation in African Agriculture: China, Brazil and International Agribusiness,”  Great Insights, III (2014), 3;

[13] Mello e Souza,  104

[14] Lidia Cabral, “Cooperacao Brasil-Africa para o Desenvolimento: Caracterizacao, Tendencias e Desafios,” T3xtos Cindes 26 (2011), 32-33;

[15] ??  “Brazilian Foreign Direct Investment and  Trade with Africa,”   in  ???  Bridging the Atlantic,  82

[16] De Renzio et al, “Solidarity,” 10

[17] “Brazil’s Foreign” 83

[18] Rotberg, “China’s Quest for Resources, Opportunities, and Influence in Africa,” in Rotberg (ed.), China into Africa: Trade, Aid, and Influence (Washington, D. C., 2008), 11-12;  “A New Atlantic Alliance,” Economist, Nov. 10, 2012

[19] UNODC, World Drug Report, 2011,;  Rotberg, “Drugs, Crime, and Terror in Africa,” Diplomat and International Canada  (Jan.-March 2015),  33-35;  Nancy C. Brune, “The Brazil-Africa Narco Nexus,” Americas Quarterly, (2011),

[20]  See the details in Rotberg,  Africa Emerges: Consummate Challenges, Abundant Opportunities (Cambridge, 2013)



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