Brazil and Africa
Brazil's relations with Africa date from the beginning of the slave
trade in the seventeenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth
century, many former slaves had returned to West Africa and had
become prosperous merchants and entrepreneurs, and regular shipping
lines and commerce flourished from Bahia. After 1945 Brazil maintained
a low-profile position in the anticolonialism debate in the UN,
but supported the positions of Portugal, Belgium, France, and Britain.
In 1961 President Jânio Quadros's new independent foreign
policy made some timid advances in favor of independence for the
remaining colonies in Africa. During the Goulart period (1961-64),
Brazil took contradictory positions, especially regarding Portugal.
Brazil's main contacts with the newly independent nations of West
Africa involved price-fixing attempts within the International Coffee
Organization. The Castelo Branco administration (1964-67) sent two
commercial missions to Africa, the Costa e Silva administration
(1967-69) opened an embassy in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) and
one in Kinshasa (Zaire).
Nonetheless, the opening to Africa really began during the presidency
of Emílio Garrastazú Médici (1969-74). In November
1972, Foreign Minister Mário Gibson Barbosa visited nine
West African countries. In 1973 Brazil voted in favor of anticolonialism
measures in the UN. This vote and follow-up trade missions resulted
in numerous bilateral agreements and Brazil's participation in the
ADB (African Development Bank). South African companies made considerable
investments in Brazil, especially in mining. Brazil's exports to
Africa jumped from US$90.4 million in 1972 to US$1.96 billion in
1981, and its imports from US$152.9 million to US$1.98 billion.
Brazil's opening to Africa was consolidated during the Geisel period
(1974-79), which coincided with the emancipation of the five Portuguese
colonies in Africa. Brazil recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau
and Cape Verde in July 1974, before it was conceded by Portugal.
In November 1975, Brazil became the first Western nation to recognize
the independence of Angola, under the revolutionary government of
the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular
de Libertação de Angola--MPLA), and to establish an
embassy in Luanda. Brazil's stance caused much consternation for
the United States because the MPLA government in Angola was socialist
and dependent on the communist bloc and Cuba at that time. That
same month, Brazil established relations with the government in
Mozambique because of its strategic importance in southern East
Africa and the Indian Ocean. Within the context of the Cold War
and Brazil's anticommunist military government, this decision was
a bold move on the part of the Geisel government. However, Brazil
placed considerable importance on establishing relations with African
countries. It was hard hit by the 1973-74 petroleum crisis and desired
access to West African oil exports in particular. The petrodollars
thus earned were used to buy Brazilian exports of manufactured goods
through Petrobrás International Trade, Inc. (Petrobrás
Comércio Internacional S.A.--Interbrás).
Over the next twenty years, Brazil established very close relations
with the lusophone or Portuguese-Speaking African Countries (Paises
Africanos de Lingua Oficial Portuguêsa--PALOPs). In addition
to Angola and Mozambique, these included São Tomé
e Príncipe, Cabo Verde, and Guinea-Bissau. The Rio Grande
do Sul Airline (Viação Aérea Rio-Grandense
do Sul--Varig) established regular flights to Lagos, Nigeria; Abidjan;
Luanda, Angola; and Maputo, Mozambique. However, in the early 1990s
flights were suspended to Lagos (to control drug traffic) and Maputo.
President Figueiredo (1974-85) was the first Brazilian president
to visit Africa (five countries in November 1983). Brazilian construction
companies undertook hydroelectric and infrastructure projects, and
Petrobrás signed risk contracts for oil exploration.
By 1986 Brazil had twenty-two embassies in the region, and President
Sarney continued the expansion of relations with Africa, visiting
Cape Verde in 1986 and Angola in 1989. African heads of state from
Algeria, Zaire, Cape Verde, and Mozambique, as well as Sam Nujoma
of the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), also visited
Brasília. By 1985 commerce between Africa and Brazil had
grown to US$3.3 billion.
In the context of the independence of Namibia in 1990, the UN requested
a Brazilian battalion to participate in peacekeeping operations,
but Brazil refused, saying that the army was not prepared and the
government lacked resources for such a venture. However, when the
UN asked for Brazilian army and police participants in peacekeeping
operations during the October 1994 election in Mozambique, the Itamar
Franco government was quick to oblige. In 1995 the Cardoso government
sent a full engineering battalion to Angola to participate in UN
operations (minesweeping and infrastructure rebuilding). In 1996
President Cardoso made a short visit to Angola en route to a longer
state visit to South Africa.
Data as of April 1997