Can Africa become the next Brazil?


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Brazil and Africa, new partners

Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time around to exchange knowledge and potentiate economic and social development.

Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agriculture production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena.

This is no coincidence. The world is going though rapid changes resulting in a new financial architecture, with emerging economies and countries in the South increasingly participating and influencing global decisions. South-South partnerships for development and growth are becoming more the norm than the exception, challenging the traditional approach to development cooperation based on “aid” form the North to the South.

Our report “Bridging the Atlantic. Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa, South-South Partnering for Growth”, shows how South-south partnerships are effectively being forged by the two sides of the Atlantic, once united by the transatlantic slave trade. Knowledge exchange, trade and investments are the areas in which Sub-Saharan African countries and Brazil are building ties, highlights the report.

The emergence of Brazil as one of the world’s largest economies and its successes in several fronts attracted the attention of Sub-Saharan African countries. In less than 10 years, Brazil decreased social inequality by lifting 20 million Brazilians out of poverty into a middle class with access to formal jobs, health and education.

The country is now one of the largest exporters of agricultural and food products like soya, coffee, sugar, chicken and meat. In tropical medicine, Brazil is recognized worldwide by its advances in developing generic pharmaceuticals for combating HIV/AIDS and other tropical diseases.

Sub-Saharan African countries are increasingly approaching Brazil to learn from these successes and the Amazon giant is willing to share them. Brazil has now knowledge partnerships with 25 Sub-Saharan African countries.

According to the report, trade between Brazil and Africa increased from US$2 billion to US$10 billion between 2000 and 2010. Brazilian investments in Africa are also increasing, with private sector companies active in infrastructure, mining, energy and agriculture. Traditionally present in Lusophone African, firms are now operating in Anglophone and Francophone countries as well.

Brazilian and African governments are working together to increase investments from Brazilian small and medium enterprises (SME’s). There are important challenges remaining to make investments flourish.

For example: Information in Brazil about Africa and vice versa is still limited; telecommunication costs remain high compared to the US and Europe, mainly due to monopolies. Maritime and air transport is not frequent enough and routes are still not direct.

A cargo ship departing from a major Brazilian port like Rio de Janeiro or Santos, to Bissau should take 10 days but currently it takes 80 days due to bureaucracy and indirect routes.

Flying from Brazil to Africa usually takes 30 hours connecting through Europe. A direct fly from Dakar to Recife in the north of Brazil would take 3 hours and 5 to Rio de Janeiro. In 2013, a submarine cable of approximate 12,800 gigabits will connect the south of Africa with the north of Brazil. This will improve internet connections and hopefully the flow of information between business communities from the two sides.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has stated that Africa remains a priority for Brazil as well as Latin America. With African economies growing, more democratic regimes in power and fewer conflicts, the future for Brazilian and African partnerships remains positive.


Susana Carrillo

Senior Specialist at the Capacity Development and Partnerships Unit in the Africa Region

Join the Conversation

December 14, 2011

Excellent...but a there are a few things that need to be addressed.
(i) Brazil should stop focusing on the three countries (Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau) that share some history with- in this case the Portuguese language - it should instead broaden its engagement further to more Anglo and Francophone countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.
(ii) The country must also address the disparities within. The poor Brazilians are predominantly black, and so I do not think that the country has the moral wherewithal to deal with black Africa without first treating its own population with dignity and respect.
(iii) And lastly, Brazil should deploy both capital and technical expertise without strings attached. It should also promote and encourage companies/organizations and other businesses based in Brazil to engage in FDI.

December 29, 2011

With its big territory, lots of sun and a willing workforce, Africa may help the world by producing food and biofuels, especially those based on sugarcane.

Entrepeneurs, are you going to miss this opportunity ?

December 29, 2011

Let's help Africa's agriculture anyway.

There are many reasons for being present in Africa, helping agriculture for food and also for biofuels.

Brazilian experience shows that biofuel form sugarcane culture foment also an agro mentality, which energizes food production.

Let's forget the differences and problems and go for it.

December 14, 2011

into a single country like Brazil.

December 14, 2011

I totally agree with your comments. Also we must understand the infrastructure of each of the African countries and understand that although the majority of the population has one race in common there are still many division within. To be able to obtain a development as in Brazil, first they need to open arms among them.

Rachel Kasumba
December 17, 2011

Susana, indeed Africa will become like Brazil and possibly surpass it sooner than later as it is composed of 54 countries at various stages of development and with a lot more to offer.

Some of the challenges in Africa are due to the enormous diversity on the continent in terms of culture, tribes, languages, education levels, religious beliefs, natural resources, etc. BUT all this is what makes Africa, the most diverse region in the world, very attractive as investors and visitors alike are pleasantly surprised to find that it is easier to get understood in any of the main business languages – English, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese – even in remote villages compared to more developed countries and emerging markets (BRICS).

That said, challenges as you highlighted in both regions still abound which presents us with many opportunities for growth and development for years to come.

December 14, 2011

A great post, but the crop on the picture looks suspiciously like marihuana. Is this allusion to the excitement about the new levels of cooperation :)))