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Brazil in Africa: just another BRICS country seeking resources?

Brazil has actively enhanced its presence on the African continent during the last decade. In the shadow of its BRICS partners China and India, whose engagement with Africa has attracted international attention and spurred a heated debate, Brazil has implemented an equally active, though less controversial policy towards Africa and has emerged as a relevant player on the continent.

This briefing paper sets out to give an overview of Brazil’s activities in Africa and analyse its motives for engagement. It starts by detailing the different activities, highlighting the basic principles and peculiarities of Brazil’s Africa policy. In addition to outlining the country’s engagement in traditional economic sectors such as natural resources and construction, the paper draws particular attention to Brazil’s remarkable recent efforts and commitment in the policy fields of health, rural development and energy.

Key points:

  • over the last decade, Brazil has doubled its diplomatic presence in Africa
  • new economic partnerships have been forged. Oil and other natural resources account for 90% of Brazil’s imports from the continent and Brazilian investment is focused mainly on Lusophone Africa
  • Brazilian policy-makers see Africa’s biggest potential as providing a consumer market for their country’s manufactured goods
  • Brazil also uses its Africa policy as a means to achieve its foreign policy goal of being recognised as a major power
  • South–South cooperation is a key driver of Brazil’s Africa policy as it is seeking support for a permanent UN Security Council seat
  • Brazil advocates South–South cooperation projects that are based on its own development experience. Biomedical and health research and agricultural research have been turned into effective foreign policy instruments

Brazil’s Africa engagement should not be seen as a pure economic strategy and even less as a simple policy to secure resources. Its involvement and growing presence in Africa reflects the country’s broader foreign policy ambition of being recognised among the key players in world politics.