John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Brazil in Africa

by John Campbell
May 1, 2013

Brazil's President Lula da Silva (L) talks his Mozambique counterpart Armando Guebuza, during his last visit to Africa as head of state in Maputo, November 9, 2010. Picture taken November 9, 2010. (Grant Lee Neuenburg/Courtesy Reuters)


According to the press, Brazil is negotiating an agreement with Mozambique to finance the construction of the Moamba Major dam to provide drinking water for Maputo. It is expected to cost U.S. $500 million. The Bank of Brazil has funded an environmental impact study for the project. With a population approaching two million and growing rapidly, Maputo needs an assured water supply. A successful agreement between Brazil and Mozambique means that construction on the dam could start as early as 2014.

The Moamba Major dam highlights Brazil’s expanded engagement in Africa. Chatham House, in November 2012, published a highly useful briefing paper on Brazil’s growing African role. It highlights Brazil’s African economic interest. Its trade with the continent increased from U.S. $4.2 billion to U.S. $27.6 billion over the past decade. Africa is potentially an important export market for Brazilian manufactured goods.

But, the Chatham House briefer highlights that Brazil sees African engagement as more than economics. It is a key to Brazil’s recognition as a major power, and close south-south relations focused on Africa could help build international support for a permanent UN Security Council seat for Brazil. Brazil seeks a partnership for development with an important political dimension rather than solely an economic relationship.

Brazil is one of the BRICS countries, along with Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Brazil’s expanding role in Africa is overshadowed in the international media by China and India’s larger role. (So, too, is South Africa’s role.) But, Brazil’s approach to Africa appears to be the more broadly based, with important political and developmental aspects, as well as economic. And there are important cultural ties between Brazil and the Lusophone Africa states such as Angola and Mozambique. Brazil also has the diaspora’s largest population of African origin. Thus far, the Brazilians appear to have avoided the cultural and other mistakes of the Chinese. The Brazilian relationship with Africa may prove deeper and longer lasting than that of its higher-profile rivals among the BRICS.

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