Brazil is once again taking an interest in African
Brazil is a fairly recent player in African agriculture,
even though agriculture as a sector has long been identified as
central to Latin America's development efforts in Africa. The
country has plenty of its own agribusiness successes to draw on in
the largescale farming and commercial production of soya bean and
ethanol, and in its promotion of smaller-scale farming in
Brazil's poorest regions. And now there is evidence of a
renewed interest in Africa. Why?
Recent Brazilian initiatives include helping farmers in Ghana,
Zimbabwe and Mozambique to access equipment, machinery and
agricultural technologies, including tractors, through the
provision of concessional credit. Constran (a Brazilian company)
which exports ethanol to Sweden, is a building an ethanol plant in
Ghana In March of this year, Embrapa (the Brazilian Enterprise for
Agricultural Research) began a genomic conservation project in
Nigeria, as part of the Africa-Brazil Platform for Agricultural
Brazil, it is generally suggested, probably has 'mixed
motivations' for focusing on Africa. It wants to diversify its
foreign affairs beyond the North Atlantic region. Its foreign
policy is predicated on promoting South–South solidarity
– and making Africa an integral part of this policy provides
a means of atoning for Brazil's past role in the African slave
trade, and the profit it reaped through that period. And it
recognizes the opportunity an ambitious global foreign policy like
this gives to occupy a top global position.
Intense diplomatic efforts underpin Africa's relationship
with Brazil today. Brazil has the fifth largest number of embassies
in Africa (37 across 55 African countries). Only the United States,
China, France and Russia have more embassies in the region.
Consequently in the past decade, Africa-Brazil trade has soared by
500% to reach US$9 billion.
But is it all about solidarity? There is no doubt that
co-operation with Africa opens a wealth of business opportunities
for Brazilian companies and clearly investment in African
agriculture by countries like Brazil is not only welcome but much
However, there are important questions to be addressed:
To what extent can Brazil as a growing economy with a real need
for raw materials, new markets and profitable deals continue to be
motivated by an authentic desire for South-South solidarity? After
all, there are clear economic advantages for Brazil's renewed
focus on Africa including but not limited to an increase in exports
and a strengthened foothold in international markets.
Given the continents diversity, just how will governments,
farmers and entrepreneurs effectively absorb and apply the models
being proposed by Brazil in a way that is meaningful to specific
African nations? And will cooperation be based on 'learning
rather than lecturing'?
Clearly there are contrasting perspectives, motivations and
expectations regarding Brazil's interest in African
agriculture. It promises to be a topic that will continue to
attract much debate and discussion.
On August 20, 2013, José Graziano da Silva, the
Director-General of the FAO, underlined the importance of
South–South cooperation between Latin America and Africa in
agricultural development. Highlighting the need for countries with
similar challenges, geographic, climate and social similarities to
mutually support one another, da Silva reiterated the FAO's
commitment to 'strengthen and channel exchanges between Latin
America and Sub-Saharan Africa with the aim to adopt, adapt and
broaden best practices that promote agricultural
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