Agricultural powerhouse Brazil aims to revive ties with Africa after a lull and sees a vast export market for food and manufactured goods in a continent whose population is surging, its foreign minister said.
Brazil’s presence in Africa surged during the government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who opened embassies in 35 of 54 African nations and led a flurry of trade and investment missions. His successor Dilma Rousseff showed little interest in foreign affairs and practically ignored Africa.
“We want to take up relations with Africa again and reaffirm its importance for Brazil,” Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said in an interview on Friday before he set off to visit Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, Ivory Coast and South Africa this week.
The African population of 1.2 billion people is expected to double by 2050, adding to a reliance on food imports. Nunes noted that the continent’s middle class is expanding, while its conflicts are diminishing and institutions are gaining strength.
Two-way trade between Brazil and Africa peaked in 2013 at $28.3 billion before plummeting to $12.4 billion last year, mainly due to the drop in prices for the oil that Brazil imports from Nigeria, Angola and Algeria.
Brazil sells cars, tractors and other manufactured goods to Africa, along with food such as beef and chicken. Trade is picking up after economic crises on both sides of the Atlantic, with chicken exports rising 27 percent in the first eight months of this year, mostly going to South Africa, Egypt and Angola.
“The potential for trade is great. Africa is not self-sufficient and needs to import food such as poultry,” said Any Freitas, an expert on Brazilian foreign policy and visiting fellow at King’s College, London.
Nunes also highlighted demand for Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA’s E-Jet commercial planes and Super Tucano light attack aircraft in countries such as Nigeria, Mozambique and Kenya.
Brazil has also helped Namibia build up its Navy with patrol ships and training for its Marine Corps.
Nunes said Brazil cannot compete in Africa with China, whose raw materials projects come with plenty of state financing and Chinese personnel.
Brazil’s cooperation is well received because of its Afro-Brazilian cultural roots and the Portuguese language it shares with several African nations, he said.
His trip ends in Durban on Oct. 17 with a meeting of the IBSA group of large emerging democracies: India, Brazil and South Africa.