Brazil’s foreign policy has traditionally focused on relations with the rest of South America, North America and Europe, with relatively little involvement in Africa. Christopher Alden, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE), says: “The principal consequence of this lack of active engagement in Africa is that Brazil has lagged behind China and India in formulating and implementing a comprehensive Africa policy. Thus although it is in the process of expanding its commercial and financial ties, Brazil’s trade with Africa remains relatively low and focused on only a few countries, whilst at the very same time that Brasilia has actively sought to elevate and integrate Africa into its global foreign policy.”
Lyal White, director of the Centre for Dynamic Markets at the Gordon Institute for Business Science in South Africa, says that Brazilian involvement in the continent “does represent a turning point where a lot of these investors and these entities for investments are recognising that Africa is indeed the last frontier for growth”.
With economic growth expected to remain strong over the next few years, the African continent as a whole may have to get used to the idea that it is one of the most attractive parts of the world for new FDI. Lula argues: “Africa cannot be looked at as it used to be, as a simple supplier of minerals and gas. We have to find African partners. We don’t want hegemony; we want strategic alliances.”
Some argue that Brazilian companies actually benefit from greater Asian interest in Africa. Markus Weimer, a research fellow at Chatham House in London, said: “Brazil has been operating under the radar, it is not seen necessarily as one of those kinds of players. The stories of Brazil with Africa have also been less contentious: you’ve heard stories from Zambia about miners being mistreated by their Chinese bosses but you don’t hear from Mozambique or Angola when it comes to Brazilian companies.”
Brazilian interaction with Africa could be seen as comparable with Indian involvement. Both are rapidly emerging global economic powers with new found political weight. India, too, shares ties with large parts of the African continent through their common experience of British colonialism. Millions of ethnic Indians live in Africa, sharing linguistic, religious, familial and economic ties with people in India and elsewhere in the world, although Delhi does not always make the most of these connections.