Brazil, Africa and the World Cup

11th June 2010 By: ISS, Institute for Security Studies

In his farewell address to the Brazilian soccer team before leaving for South Africa President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stressed that the eyes of tens of millions of Brazilians will be on Africa for the coming month as they follow their national team's performance in the 2010 World Cup.

Lula and his emerging state has however been focusing on the continent for a while now and Brazil`s interest in Africa is becoming increasingly visible and important. During one of his trips to Africa, President Lula, referring to the millions of African slaves who were brought to Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries said that the "Brazilian society was built on the work, the sweat and the blood of Africans," For that reason, he said Brazil "is indebted to Africa". Lula made it clear that Brazil intends to repay the debt by strengthening its solidarity and cooperation with Africa. It seems that the time is just right.

In 2001 Jim O`Neill, a global economist at Goldman Sachs drafted the BRIC thesis emphasising the growing economic political and diplomatic power of Brazil, Russia, India and China and stating that these countries, encompassing over 25% of the world`s land coverage and 40% of the world`s population, are the superpowers of the future. With their fast growing economies, the past 9 years indeed witnessed the expanding and ever-increasing role of these nations in world affairs. Their involvement in issues ranging from nuclear proliferation and climate change to the world financial order is indeed redefining the international landscape with a capacity to create a multi-polar world. According to some analysts the fact that neither Russia nor China have respectively a diversified economy nor democracy, and that India suffers among others from the movement of Maoist rebels and regional tensions, makes Brazil the major stable brick of the BRICs with a significant leverage on international affairs.

According to The Economist Brazil is likely to become the world's fifth largest economy, overtaking Britain and France before 2025. The past decade witnessed not only an economic development and growth, but a significant rise in the role, acceptance and influence of the Brazilian involvement, representing the developing world on major global issues. The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil are believed to further showcase the incoming superpower.

The recent initiative by Brazil in partnership with Turkey to make a deal in the Iranian nuclear controversy is just the latest sign of Brazil`s growing visibility and impact on international relations. In the midst of suspicion and deep pessimism from most of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council the emerging powers Brazil and Turkey recently tried to fill the gap between the conventional world powers and Iran and made an alternative deal to resolve the critical standoff. The major powers and the West responded with mixed reaction to the deal. They have a hard time trusting Iran. Though the effect of the deal on the ongoing crisis is yet to be seen, the move has magnified Brazil`s mounting position and sphere of influence.

The past decade has also witnessed a revival of African economies after the stagnation in the 80's and the troubled 90's. The continent is indeed in need of international partners. Trade and investment is more sought-after and important than aid and interference. Brazil and its ever-growing multinationals have the potential to deliver on this.

Brazilian companies are investing in mining, agriculture, livestock and forestry. Brazil has for example been supporting the creation of pharmaceutical plants to manufacture generic anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs), which help prolong the lives of people infected with HIV in Southern African countries. Through its Agência Brasileira de Cooperação it also offers scientific, economic, and technical support to programmes in Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

Furthermore, Brazil could share its agricultural and economic success and its achievements in poverty reduction with Africa countries. The Brazilian model is indeed a great example for the African continent as it has achieved success through reform and democratic consensus building.

Brazil has deep-rooted historical and socio-cultural ties with the African continent. It has the second largest black population of any country in the world after Nigeria, as more than half of the 180 million Brazilians can trace their ancestry directly to Africa. Recognizing the cultural ties, and with an interest to expand it to the economic and political spheres, two days before the Brazilian soccer team arrived in Johannesburg, Brazil launched an international television station that will broadcast to African nations. Speaking at the launch event in Brasilia President Lula said the aim of the Portuguese-language channel was to represent Brazil to the world. TV Brasil Internacional, based in Brasilia will re-broadcast news and culture and the ever-increasing Brazilian role on international matters via Mozambique`s capital, Maputo, to 49 African nations.

The fact that the Brazilian TV station chose to start its first international venture in Africa showed the weight of relations between the emerging state and continent.

Africa and Brazil, as both part of the developing world have a number of shared interests. Brazil repeatedly showed great determination in challenging the status quo international order for a better system which considers the interests and grievances of the developing world. The strong position taken by Brazil at the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancún, Mexico is just one example. President Lula has been urging developing countries to act together, and have a stronger voice in the global fora. During a visit to Angola he stressed "Developing nations must take on a new role and be more demanding." Brazil also representated the developing world at the Copenhagen climate change talks at the end of 2009.

Brazil is a rising global power, with a legitimate claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. It is a member of the G4, an organization comprised of Brazil, Germany, Japan, and India seeking permanent representation in the most powerful international political organ. Brazil can benefit from its strong relations with Africa as the continent has the most seats with 54 plus votes in the General Assembly of the UN. As shown in its involvement in the Iran nuclear crisis, Brazil can also play a supportive and responsible role in the various peace and security initiatives in Africa and support the continental security architecture bilaterally and through the UN. It especially could be a key ally in fighting drug trafficking which is becoming a mammoth security threat in western Africa.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, during Lula's visit to his country said "we count on Brazil as an important partner in the process of the renewal of the African continent." The growing ties between Brazil and Africa is certainly a benefit to both Brazil and the continent.

Written by: Hallelujah Lulie, Junior Researcher, Peace and Security Council Report Program