John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Brazil: A New Tiger in Africa?

by John Campbell
August 8, 2012

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (L) is guided by his Zambian counterpart Rupiah Banda (R) on arrival at the Lusaka International Airport July 7, 2010. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Americans sometimes think that the Chinese in Africa are ten feet tall.  But, other countries are more quietly expanding their African economic and political ties:  India and South Korea come to mind.  A must-read August 8 story in the New York Times highlights the increasingly important Brazilian presence.

Brazil has the largest population of African descent outside of Africa and had close links particularly with Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea Bissau during the days of the Portuguese empire. In Nigeria, a Yoruba traditional ruler told me that he regularly visited his “subjects” in Brazil’s northeast.

Brasilia’s current focus on Africa, however, is much more recent.  It is usually dated from the administration of President Lula (2003-2010) and reflects Brazil’s remarkable economic development and the search for new trade and investment venues– according to the Times, Brazil has displaced Britain as the world’s sixth largest economy.  Brazil’s presence in Africa is also diplomatic – there are now thirty-six Brazilian embassies in Africa, compared with forty-four American embassies.  Brazil also has a small aid program.

In my view, the expanded Brazilian interest and presence in Africa is win-win.  Brazilian trade and investment will promote African economic development.  Brazil is a democracy:  its greatly enhanced diplomatic presence can only encourage the development of African democracy conducted according to the rule of law.  And Brazil may be able to exercise positive influence in those places where there is ambiguity about the United States, such as Angola.

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  • Posted by Abdulrazak Ibrahim

    Beyond trade and investment, Brazilian presence in Africa portends greater development in most of the African countries. Little is known about such educational programs as PEC-G/PG, which offers scholarships to students from mostly African countries, to study in Brazilian universities. Between 1965 to 2010, over 6,000 students have benefitted from the program at undergraduate level alone. Only last week, Africa-Brazil Innovation Marketplace (, a platform that promotes partnership amongst African and Brazilian agricultural research scientists, donated 1.6million USD to the researchers to promote agricultural research, with support from World Bank, DFID, IFAD, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Indeed African countries stand to benefit from the Brazilian experience in agriculture and the great advances it has brought to the country. The genuine interest of Brazil to partner with Africa, which is apparently inspired by great cultural ties between the two, presents great opportunities for African leaders willing to serve their countries. We are grateful to President Lula, whose African initiatives, including the establishment of Embrapa (The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) office in Accra, Ghana, has helped consolidated these partnerships.

  • Posted by Raja M. Ali Saleem

    While there is no doubt that Brazil’s investment will help both Brazil and Africans, tying it with democracy is carrying it a bit too far. If past half a century of interaction with US and Western Europe didn’t help African democracy, how can Brazil (which is still not a consolidated democracy) help.

    Perhaps there is an assumption here that businessmen from democratic countries behave differently than those from dictatorships. History shows us that most of the US/British and French businessmen were adept at exploiting the opportunities provided by the dictatorships in the developing world and their governments assisted them in this endeavor. Will a Brazilian businessman accept a dip in his profits for human rights and democracy? I am doubtful.

    However, education programs and scholarships can definitely help growth of democratic consciousness.

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