In the shadow of Chinaís and Indiaís inroads into the African continent, South Americaís emerging power, Brazil, has been increasing its presence in Africa. However, its role in Africa has remained relatively unnoticed by international media and academia thus far. Brazilís low visibility in Africa cannot be explained exclusively by the fact that its financial engagement is still limited in comparison to that of China or India. An explanation would also need to include the unique way the South American power has interacted with Africa. Brazil has presented itself as a partner for Africaís development challenges rather than as a business partner. Although Brazil primarily imports oil and other natural resources from Africa, Brazilís cooperation with African countries, in contrast to that of China or India, has not been tied to contracts for oil-drilling or mining concessions. In fact, Brazilís expanding engagement in Africa serves other motives than resource-seeking. Brazil is trying to gain status as a global player by acting as a provider of development assistance and demonstrating global leadership on pressing international issues such as poverty alleviation, the fight against AIDS, or the provision of energy security.
Gaining a Foothold in Africa
Being a late-comer in terms of its diplomatic presence in Africa, Brazil has expanded the number of its embassies on the continent significantly in recent years. Whereas existing Brazilian embassies on the African continent closed down in the 1980s and 1990s due to economic problems, Brazil increased the number of its embassies in Africa from 17 to 37 in the first decade of the new millennium. This increase has, of course, been linked to the South American countryís economic rise, but also reflects a new direction in Brazilís foreign policy. Especially under the leadership of former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (2003-2010), the country undertook major efforts to expand its presence on its neighboring continent.
Brazil has also actively forged relations with African nations through intensive travel diplomacy, with a record of 13 presidential visits to 29 African countries in the last ten years. No other head of government has visited Africa as often as Lula. Current President Dilma Rousseff, who has limited her visits to Brazilís most important partners, has already paid a visit to Africa in her first year in office. In addition to the intensification of bilateral ties with African countries, Brazil has also established stronger links with the continent at an institutional level. Cooperation agreements linking Brazil with African institutions include partnerships with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the New Partnership for Africaís Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU) as well as the CPLP (Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries).
In line with the enhancement of its diplomatic footprint, Brazil has also expanded its economic engagement in Africa. Between 2000 and 2011, trade has increased more than sixfold from US$4.2 billion to US$27.6 billion, making Brazil the BRIC-country with the second highest rate of increase in trade with Africa, after China. As an export destination for Africa, Brazil currently holds the 10th rank; among Africaís so called emerging trade partners Brazil is in fourth place behind China, India, and South Korea. Due to historic ties and linguistic similarities, Brazilís presence is especially strong in Portuguese-speaking Lusophone Africa. In Angola, for instance, Brazil is already among the three most important investor countries and the biggest private employer in the West African country.
A Resource-Driven Rapprochement?
Looking beyond the impressive growth rates, trade statistics suggest that Brazilís trade relationship with Africa is not balanced. Brazilian imports from Africa at US$15.43 billion clearly surpass the US$12.22 billion exported by Brazil to the continent. Brazilís negative trade balance with Africa is due to the fact that Brazil imports large amounts of oil and fuel from African countries. In fact, natural resources make up almost 90 percent of Brazilian imports from Africa. Resource interests also seem to play a role with regard to Brazilís most important trade partners on the African continent: Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, and Libya. Brazilís major players in Africa like the oil giant Petrobras or the mining company Vale are deeply involved in the extraction of Africaís resources.
The pattern of an emerging power coming to Africa for resources, however, does not fit as neatly as it seems at first glance. Despite Brazilís involvement in Africaís resource sector, there are two major differences that distinguish the Brazilian Africa engagement from that of other resource-hungry BRIC partners. First, in contrast to other emerging economies, Brazil is a resource-rich country itself and is not dependent on the imports of raw materials to fuel its production. Second, Brazilís development assistance to African countries is not tied to oil exploration and mining licenses, but is independent of the recipient countryís natural resources.
Brazilís foreign trade depends to a large extent on the export of raw materials. In fact, commodities account for almost half of Brazilís exports. Ores as well as oil and fuel products are the leading export products. As some of Brazilís biggest companies are specialized in the extraction of oil and mineral resources, it is no surprise that the majority of Brazilís companies investing in Africa are also focused on the resource sector. Using their know-how in the exploration of natural resources and benefitting from geological similarities between Brazil and Africa, they have engaged in mining and drilling activities in Africa since the 1970s. Supported by loans from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) they have expanded their activities in Africa in the last decade, thereby diversifying their production locations and rising to international significance.
Regarding Brazilís oil imports from Africa, the pic- ture is also more nuanced than the current trade statistics indicate. While the engagement of Brazilís oil company Petrobras in Africa was indeed driven by the Brazilian governmentís desire to secure oil supply before it pos- sessed oil reserves of its own, things have changed since the country made the worldís biggest oil discoveries in the past 20 years. Once the technical challenges have been resolved and the production of the ultra deep oil reserves takes off, Brazil has the potential to become one of the top five oil exporters in the world. As a consequence, Brazilís oil imports from Africa are likely to decrease in the future.
In Search of a New Market
Brazilian officials of the Ministry for Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (MDIC) as well as representatives of Brazilian trade and business associations therefore maintain that Brazilís real economic interest in Africa does not lie in natural resources but in the continentís growing consumer market. As international business analysts speak of Africa as one of the worldís fastest-growing consumer markets with around 128 million potential consumers by the year 2020, Brazil sees growing potential for the export of its ďtropicalizedĒ products that are adapted to tropical conditions and fit the needs of developing nations.
With an economy having witnessed a decline in the manufacturing share of GDP over recent years and a positive trade balance depending increasingly on commodity exports, Brazil fears deindustrialization. In consequence, Brazil is looking for potential markets to which to export its manufactured products. Such a shift would also enable Brazil to diversify away from the export of primary goods such as soy and meat that have driven the countryís economic rise in the last decade. As Brazil attempts to step up its industrial production, Africa, as a market that consumes an above average share of Brazilís manufactured products, (42 percent compared to the average share of 36 percent) is gaining importance for the South American economy.
In light of rising investments by other emerging economies such as China and India in Africaís infrastructure and resource sector, Brazil hopes to increase its exports of machinery, technical equipment, and construction materials. As Africa witnesses the rise of a new middle class willing to spend money on consumer goods, market analyses by Brazilís export promotion agency, APEX, suggest that there is also growing potential for the export of Brazilian food, beverages, fashion, and cosmetics.
Although data from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) reveals that Brazil has extended its credit lines to companies willing to invest in Africa from 2007 onwards (in 2007, US$149 million; and in 2011, US$466.2 mil- lion) and has provided special credit lines for countries such as Angola (US$3.2 billion), Mozambique (US$80 million), and South Africa (US$35 million) to further the†export of Brazilian goods and services, Brazilís development assistance has so far been independent from its export promotion activities. This distinguishes Brazil from other emerging economies like China and India that have pursued so called tied-aid agreements with development cooperation projects linked to trade agreements.
Brazilian South-South Cooperation with Africa
Brazil has presented itself to Africa as a partner for development rather than as a business partner. Strengthening its discourse on Southern solidarity, Brazil has offered African countries a free transfer of its know-how and expertise on a wide range of development issues. As Brazil has been (and continues to be) a recipient of development aid for decades, it presents itself as a partner that is familiar with the development challenges African countries are facing. Building on its own development experiences, Brazil has offered African states so called South-South cooperation projects in which it shares its development experiences and provides capacity-building measures to its partners.
The issue areas of Brazilian South-South cooperation with African nations comprise key development challenges such as poverty reduction, health, and energy security. Brazil has tackled these development challenges successfully through the implementation of large-scale social programs, such as the worldís biggest cash transfer program ďBolsa FamiliaĒ (Family Scholarship) that has lifted around 50 million people out of poverty, and the worldís largest rural electrification program ďLuz para TodosĒ (Light for All) that has brought electricity access to three million families in remote rural areas. In the field of AIDS, Brazil has been praised for its successful program that has significantly reduced AIDS-related mortality and morbidity in Brazil and reduced infections through large-scale prevention campaigns.
Being praised internationally for its domestic successes in the fight against poverty, AIDS, and energy scarcity, Brazil has started exporting its social programs to interested partner countries. Other areas of Brazilian South-South cooperation programs include the transfer of know-how in tropical agriculture and the production of biofuels. Brazil has emerged as a leader ó both as a food exporter and producer of biofuels from sugarcane ó that now offers its experience to other countries. In this context, the Agricultural Research Institute EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa AgropecuŠria) opened an Africa office in Ghana in 2006 to coordinate South-South cooperation projects in the field of tropical agriculture and biofuels. In 2008, Brazil also opened an office of its biomedical research and public health institute FIOCRUZ (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) in Mozambique in order to intensify its health cooperation with the African continent.
An analysis of Brazilís African partner countries for development cooperation shows that there is no direct link to its major trade partners on the continent. In fact, the majority of the 122 Brazilian projects in Africa are in countries that have no significant trade with the South American country. This finding supports the claim of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) that its development cooperation is not driven by economic interests. With the exception of Angola, which has strong linguistic and historic ties with Brazil, all other major trade partners have only few cooperation projects. A great number of Brazilís 42 cooperation partners in Africa are in fact small and rather economically unimportant.
Interestingly, in terms of the allocation of resources for Brazilís emerging development cooperation, Africa (with US$36 million for 2012-15) is given almost the same priority as Latin America (with US$40 million for 2012-15). This is even more striking when considering that the regional neighborhood is of far greater economic and political importance for Brazil than Africa. Yet this allocation hints at the possibility of a different set of interests behind Brazilís engagement in Africa that goes beyond the simple and one-dimensional drive for economic benefit.
Looking Beyond the Economic Benefits
Although Brazil is now beginning to benefit economically from its intensified relations with Africa, its turn towards Africa was severely criticized in the beginning. Whereas today Brazilian business and industry is increasingly looking towards Africa because industrialized countries are struggling with economic crises, representatives of Brazilian trade and business associations confirm that the rapprochement with Africa was driven by Lulaís government at a time when they did not show much economic interest in the continent. As Brazilís most important trade partners were located in the US and Europe, Lulaís plans for a greater Brazilian-African engagement were dismissed by many as economic nonsense.
Lulaís interest in forging ties with Africa, however, was not predominantly economic but rather political in nature. In his drive to assert the countryís claim for a greater voice in international affairs, the rapprochement with Africa was of central importance. Trying to gain more leverage vis-ŗ-vis the established powers, Brazil started to forge coalitions with developing countries in international organizations. As a continent with 54 developing countries and a corresponding number of votes in international organizations, Africa was at the heart of Brazilís South-South coalition strategy from the very beginning.
Facing contestation for its leadership claim in its own region, a rapprochement with Africa also proved to be an alternative way for Brazil to gather support for its ambitions to win a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Moreover, engaging Africa was also important for Brazil to gain credibility as a leader of the global South. In order to underscore its discourse on global justice and prove its claim to act in the interest of the developing world, South- South cooperation with Africa became an important tool of Brazilian foreign policy.
Conceptualized and presented as ďhorizontal partnershipsĒ among equals, these cooperation projects have also provided for a rise in Brazilís international status. It is striking how the South American country, not long ago perceived as a developing country struggling with poverty, inequality, and economic instability, is now acting as an example of successful development and is exporting its development model.
To be sure, Brazil has an impressive development record: It has achieved the first millennium goal ahead of time by cutting extreme poverty by 50 percent. It has established an inclusive growth model giving more than 30 million people the chance to rise to the middle class through an effective income transfer program. It has succeeded in preventing a looming AIDS epidemic through the implementation of a highly successful AIDS-program, including large-scale prevention campaigns and free access to AIDS medicine. And it has effectively improved energy security by developing alternative energy sources like biofuels and bringing electricity to vast rural areas through decentralized energy programs.
It is interesting to note that Brazil has also been very successful in using these domestic achievements as an instrument to sharpen its international profile as a ďChampion of the South.Ē Whatís more, the export of its social programs through South-South cooperation has allowed Brazil an impressive role reversal: it has risen from an aid- receiving developing country to a donor country that helps poorer countries tackle their development challenges.
As a country lacking major hard power resources or an important geostrategic location, Brazil has managed to engage in international politics through the instrument of South-South cooperation. The provision of technical assistanceóbeyond its own regionóhas provided an opportunity for Brazil to demonstrate its willingness to assume global responsibility and to underscore its claim to take part in the shaping of global politics. By assisting African countries in the fight against poverty, AIDS, and energy insecurity Brazil has seized the opportunity to embrace pressing global issues and demonstrate leadership on these development and security challenges of the 21st century.
Brazilís Africa Policy as Status-seeking Policy
Brazilís Africa Engagement is thus closely entwined with its foreign policy ambitions of becoming recognized at the top tables of international politics and receiving a seat in the UN Security Council. In its drive for increased international political and economic presence, Africa has provided a perfect platform for Brazil to engage beyond its own region and present itself as a global player.
It is important to note that Brazilís Africa engagement is explained not only by economic interests, but also by the countryís foreign policy aspirations. This motivation constitutes a key difference from other emerging powers that predominantly seek Africaís natural resources. Gaining economic and political presence in Africa has been part of a broader strategy of Brazil to gain international stature. The fact that Brazilian companies have engaged in the African resource sector should not mislead the ob- server. Brazil is not another emerging economy seeking the continentís resources, but rather an emerging power in search of greater status.
The established powers, especially the United States, that have been reluctant to recognize Brazilís claim for a greater international role, should acknowledge Brazilís constructive engagement in Africa and take advantage of Brazilís willingness to make a contribution to global problem-solving. Emerging cooperation agreements between Brazil and established donor countries like the US, Japan, and Germany for triangular development cooperation projects in Africa are a step in this direction as they benefit from Brazilís expertise and legitimacy as a leading power of the South.