Brazil and Africa: the southern link

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In the enduring hunt for sharing economic opportunities, Brazilian eyes are increasingly turning toward other countries, with a special focus on Africa. Three leaders from across Brazil explain why.

Growth, opportunity and potential have ricocheted across Brazil and the African continent in recent years.

The links forged between Brazil and Africa mean that the south-south cooperation is here to stay.

Millions of years ago, Africa and Brazil were joined in a single landmass, and continue to share similarities in soil and climate. The increasingly close relationship between the two began during the Presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who traveled to Africa 12 times in the 1990s. Brazil received 47 visits by African kings, presidents, and prime ministers from 27 nations during the da Silva Presidency alone.

A broad range of ambitions

The close ties have led to a wide array of development programs, ranging from humanitarian aid to multilateral interventions across sectors such as:

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • E-government
  • Urban development
  • Tourism

Much of this work is overseen and deployed by ABC, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency responsible for the Government’s development programs. Its Director, Ambassador Fernando José Marroni de Abreu, says the focus on Africa — “south-south cooperation” — is a permanent concern for Brazilian foreign policy.

He is keen to stress that the focus is not aid, but capacity development. “Through that focus, we believe that partner countries benefit from an effective transfer and absorption of knowledge, and from an exchange of experiences developed in Brazil under quite similar socioeconomic circumstances.”

“Unlike the north-south model, Brazilian cooperation does not offer solution packages,” he adds.

The approach is closely replicated by SENAI, Brazil’s National Industrial Apprenticeships Association, which provides formal vocational training for specialized workers across a range of sectors and industries. While fully focused on promoting professional and technical education, innovation and technology transfer in Brazil, it is now increasingly active in African countries as well.

Frederico Lamego, its Executive Director of International Relations, is a firm believer in the cumulative benefits that occur from working in Africa, citing strengthened international relations as a key advantage.

Sharing experiences

Sharing experiences is another aspect of African development where Brazilian organizations are coming to the fore. Brazilian bank Caixa Economica Federal acts as an agent of technical cooperation in Africa following guidelines from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its work is coordinated by ABC and is based on the bank’s accumulated experience in areas such as housing and social benefits.

By implementing technical training programs and prioritizing knowledge transfer, there has been great success in local capacity building, says Maria Letícia Macedo, Head of International Relationship Division at Caixa.

Looking ahead

The current budget for Africa exceeds US$70m in signed projects, representing about 60% of the total resources committed by ABC. However, this level of funding has proven to be insufficient to meet rising demand.

“The challenges also include efforts for effective coordination between the performance of Brazilian cooperating institutions and their local counterparts in the beneficiary countries,” says Marroni de Abreu.

“South-south cooperation should be mainly implemented by way of a project aimed at achieving structural results. Consistency and sustainability can only be ensured within a framework of projects with durable and long-standing impacts.”

“It goes without saying that a successful outcome of a south-south cooperation initiative will be limited without the continuous involvement of the different segments of the civil society in its implementation. There is no real south-south cooperation without clear local ownership and leadership.”

The links forged between Brazil and Africa mean that the south-south cooperation is here to stay. Fast forward 10 or 20 years, and these links are only likely to have broadened and deepened.