Brazil and Africa bridge the South At­lantic

From grow­ing busi­ness and bridg­ing so­cio-cul­tural ties to cur­ry­ing diplo­matic favours in pur­suit of geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, Brazil and Africa have found that they ex­ist in sev­eral in­ter­sect­ing and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial spheres.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Africa and Brazil is rarely spared a se­cond glance. When African coun­tries are ex­am­ined in re­la­tion to the wider world, peo­ple of­ten fo­cus on the con­ti­nent's sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic, his­tor­i­cal and se­cu­rity links with na­tions such as China, France, the United King­dom and the United States. But aided by cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties and mu­tual in­ter­ests, Brazil has in fact been forg­ing strong ties with African coun­tries for decades.

Brazil was col­o­nized by Por­tu­gal, as were sev­eral African states, and their com­mon Lu­so­phone (Por­tuguese-speak­ing) iden­tity has helped to bind the South Amer­i­can na­tion with An­gola, Mozam­bique, Guinea Bis­sau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. Shared so­cio-cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics, in turn, have served as a foun­da­tion for good re­la­tions be­tween Brazil and these African na­tions in other ar­eas. Brazil­ian busi­nesses and their Lu­so­phone African coun­ter­parts have easy ac­cess to and ref­er­ence points for one an­other, and Brazil­ians ben­e­fit from visafree travel to Lu­so­phone African coun­tries. If Lu­so­phone Africa is the start­ing point for Brazil's strat­egy on the con­ti­nent, the large south­ern African na­tion of An­gola is its epi­cen­tre. In 1975, Brazil sur­prised many po­lit­i­cal lead­ers by be­com­ing the first coun­try in the world to rec­og­nize An­gola's in­de­pen­dence. At the time, Brazil was ruled by a right-wing mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, and the Marx­ist Peo­ple's Move­ment for the Lib­er­a­tion of An­gola was not an ob­vi­ous can­di­date for Brasilia's sup­port. How­ever, Brazil's strate­gic in­ter­est in the South At­lantic – the geo­graphic por­tion of the At­lantic Ocean south of the equa­tor – com­pelled Brazil­ian diplo­mats to ac­cept re­alpoli­tik and em­brace a prag­matic re­la­tion­ship with An­gola that con­tin­ues to this day. In 2015, Brazil signed in­vest­ment agree­ments with An­gola and Mozam­bique that al­lowed Brazil­ian com­pa­nies to open of­fices there. These com­pa­nies then used the na­tions as hubs, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the re­duced tar­iff rates that come with their mem­ber­ships in the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity.

The South At­lantic Strat­egy

Brazil has also made use of Lu­so­phone Africa in its broader African strat­egy, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the South At­lantic, where a wealth of oil and other valu­able min­er­als have long cap­tured the coun­try's at­ten­tion. Around 70 per­cent of Brazil's oil ex­plo­ration takes place in the South At­lantic, and the coun­try es­ti­mates that the pre-salt oil re­serves lo­cated along Brazil's off­shore coast alone hold over 1.6 tril­lion cu­bic me­ters of nat­u­ral gas and oil. The South At­lantic space is also rich in coal and other raw ma­te­ri­als whose value is set to in­crease in the decades ahead, of­fer­ing end­less rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties for Brazil.

Af­ter the fall of its pro-nuclear mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship in 1985, Brazil saw a chance to fuse its anti-nuclear poli­cies and its larger eco­nomic in­ter­ests in the South At­lantic, spear­head­ing the 1986 cre­ation of the South At­lantic Peace and Co­op­er­a­tion Zone (bet­ter known by its Span­ish acro­nym, ZOPACAS). ZOPACAS, which saw a boost in 1989 af­ter apartheid-era South Africa dis­man­tled its nuclear weapons pro­gramme, boasts the goal of de­nu­cle­ariz­ing the South At­lantic. For Brazil, it of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand the coun­try's mar­itime ter­ri­tory in the South At­lantic by co­or­di­nat­ing with other non­nu­clear pow­ers – a par­tic­u­larly con­ve­nient op­por­tu­nity since many of the nuclear pow­ers whose pres­ence in the South At­lantic is lim­ited by ZOPACAS, such as the United States and sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, have op­posed Brazil's eco­nomic am­bi­tions in the area.

Since 1970, the Brazil­ian govern­ment has is­sued de­crees that ex­tend its mar­itime ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone in the South At­lantic, with the ini­tial in­ten­tion of stretch­ing the zone from 12 miles to 120. But af­ter dis­cov­er­ing a wealth of oil re­serves out­side the 120-mile ra­dius, the Brazil­ian govern­ment is­sued a uni­lat­eral de­cree ex­tend­ing its reach to 200 miles. The move drew heavy crit­i­cism from the United States and Europe, and the cre­ation of ZOPACAS has

served as an ideal way to es­tab­lish Brazil's mar­itime le­git­i­macy through co­or­di­na­tion with not just the South Amer­i­can coun­tries in the area, but also West African states. Brazil is now await­ing a rul­ing from the United Na­tions about whether it can ex­tend its mar­itime ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone to 350 miles, and the sup­port of other ZOPACAS na­tions has been use­ful through­out the 13year case.

Ever Stronger Ties

For years, Brazil­ian pol­i­cy­mak­ers have un­der­stood the strate­gic value of the coun­tries along the Western-fac­ing African coast, and they have re­cently be­gun ramp­ing up a diplo­matic charm of­fen­sive de­signed to push Brazil's re­la­tions with Africa be­yond cul­tural ties and south­ern sol­i­dar­ity. Brasilia has made a clear choice to in­crease its po­lit­i­cal pres­ence on the African con­ti­nent, with the num­ber of Brazil­ian em­bassies in Africa ris­ing from 18 to 39 be­tween 2003 and 2013. Brazil is now the coun­try with the fifth­largest diplo­matic pres­ence in Africa. And this move, like many oth­ers, was driven by mul­ti­ple goals.

Greater rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the African con­ti­nent sig­nals that Brazil is in­ter­ested in a se­ri­ous long-term com­mit­ment there, which has al­lowed Brazil­ian busi­nesses to thrive. From 2000 to 2013, trade be­tween Brazil and Africa went from $4.2 bil­lion to $28.4 bil­lion; African coun­tries pri­mar­ily pro­vided oil to Brazil, while Brazil pro­vided in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment, agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and de­fence equip­ment and train­ing in re­turn. Un­for­tu­nately for both par­ties, this trade has slowed since 2013 be­cause of a de­cline in com­mod­ity prices and Brazil's eco­nomic re­ces­sion; by 2016, it had dropped by $12.4 bil­lion. But as the Brazil­ian econ­omy starts to show signs of re­cov­ery, trade is set to climb once again. Trade data for the first half of 2017 al­ready shows a 16 per­cent in­crease com­pared with the same pe­riod in 2016. Brazil's food ex­ports to Africa, in par­tic­u­lar, grew by a whop­ping 57 per­cent and rep­re­sent over 50 per­cent of the trade be­tween Brazil and Africa this year so far.

Po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions have spurred the em­bassy boom even fur­ther. In the early 2000s, Brazil was in­tent on re­form­ing the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and be­com­ing a per­ma­nent mem­ber. To that end, it sought sup­port from African coun­tries, which to­gether rep­re­sent 28 per­cent of the United Na­tions' mem­ber­ship. Brazil­ian em­bassies be­gan pop­ping up in un­ex­pected places like Sierra Leone and Burk­ina Faso. Brazil's U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ini­tia­tive ul­ti­mately failed in the face of a lack of sup­port from ma­jor global pow­ers, and com­bined with the coun­try's larger fi­nan­cial con­cerns, that fail­ure has given rise to pro­pos­als to close some em­bassies in Africa. But such shut­downs, which are far from cer­tain, are un­likely to af­fect Brazil's pres­ence in ma­jor African economies.

What Africa Gains

Of course, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Brazil and the African con­ti­nent is not a one-way street. Eco­nom­i­cally, coun­tries like An­gola have ben­e­fited from their re­la­tion­ships with Brazil. Af­ter all, Brazil­ian multi­na­tional com­pa­nies have cre­ated thou­sands of jobs in lo­cal mar­kets. In 2017, the Brazil­ian busi­ness con­glom­er­ate Ode­brecht pro­vided 13,000 jobs in An­gola, and at its height it pro­vided over 17,000 jobs. The com­pany also helped fur­nish multi­bil­lion-dol­lar loans and em­barked on sev­eral in­fras­truc­ture projects in the coun­try. In Mozam­bique, Brazil's in­vest­ment topped $9.5 bil­lion in 2015, driven mainly by the min­ing com­pany Vale. More­over, for Lu­so­phone Africa's elite, Brazil of­fers the added boon of be­ing an ideal lo­ca­tion in which to in­vest and park as­sets.

African coun­tries have also stood to gain from sev­eral de­fence co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with Brazil. These in­volve, among other things, the de­vel­op­ment of the joint A-Darter mis­sile pro­gramme with South Africa, which con­cluded last year, and sales of Brazil­ian Em­braer-made Su­per Tu­cano jets and pa­trol boats. Nige­ria is in the process of ac­quir­ing 12 Su­per Tu­canos, while An­gola has pur­chased eight Brazil­ian pa­trol boats and six Su­per Tu­canos in the last four years as part of a 2013 mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion agree­ment with Brazil. The Brazil­ian mil­i­tary has also ex­tended its train­ing to African coun­tries, as ev­i­denced by a 2012 agree­ment al­low­ing for An­golan mil­i­tary per­son­nel to train in Brazil. These train­ings bol­ster the mil­i­tary strength of African coun­tries and reap fi­nan­cial re­wards for Brazil, all while build­ing bi­lat­eral ties and co­op­er­a­tion.

Though these re­la­tion­ships aren't given the global at­ten­tion that, say, China's African over­tures are, Brazil has main­tained strong and pro­duc­tive ties with African states for decades in hopes of tap­ping into the many ben­e­fits such con­nec­tions can pro­vide. From grow­ing busi­ness and bridg­ing so­cio-cul­tural ties to cur­ry­ing diplo­matic favours in pur­suit of geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, Brazil and Africa have found that they ex­ist in sev­eral in­ter­sect­ing and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial spheres. And con­sid­er­ing the com­mit­ments Brazil has made in Africa in re­cent years, there is lit­tle to sug­gest that the cul­ti­va­tion of this re­la­tion­ship will slow in the years ahead.

“Brazil and Africa Bridge the South At­lantic” is re­pub­lished un­der con­tent con­fed­er­a­tion be­tween Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria and Strat­for.

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