- Brazil's popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on a current roundtrip to four West African countries is seeking support for an enlarged South-South trade and for his country's plea to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. President Lula yesterday visited Cameroon and Nigeria, a new major trade partner for Brazil, and is now in Ghana. Tomorrow, he heads for Guinea-Bissau and then finally Senegal.
The Brazilian President has indeed strengthened his country's relations with Africa since he came to power. With this roundtrip, President Lula will have been on an official visit to a total of 14 African countries. After tomorrow's visit to Guinea-Bissau, he will also have visited all the five Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa since he was elected by a landslide in October 2002.
The five-country roundtrip started on Sunday in Cameroon, where President Lula was received by his counterpart, President Paul Biya. Several accords were underway to strengthen ties between Cameroon, and Brazil, according to government sources in Yaoundé. These in particular include technical aid from Brazil in the sectors of cocoa production, health and education. Also, the reopening of the Brazilian embassy in Cameroon was announced.
Yesterday, he arrived in Nigeria, a country that has become Brazil's major trade partner in Africa. In Abuja, the Nigerian capital, President Lula met with his Nigerian counterpart, President Olusegun Obasanjo. One of the main aims during this visit has been to consolidate and strengthen these trade links, which include large-scale exports of fish from Brazil to Nigeria.
President Lula yesterday urged President Obasanjo to help strengthening these South-South trade links. "Our commercial relations could be infinitely improved, our cultural relations could be infinitely improved and our political relations could be infinitely improved," President Lula told his Nigerian counterpart at a gala luncheon in Abuja yesterday.
Brazilian trade links with Ghana are still limited but observed to have a great potential given Ghana's rapid growth and stabile business environment. Ways to strengthen these ties will be the key issue when Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor receives Mr Lula at the Accra International Conference Centre this evening, hosting a major banquette in honour of the Brazilian President. Tomorrow, the two state leaders will inaugurate the Brazil-Ghana Chamber of Commerce.
Tomorrow's visit to Guinea-Bissau will have a more political character, given the still dysfunctional economy in that country and the preparations for the upcoming presidential polls in Bissau. President Lula, also representing the Portuguese speaking "commonwealth" (the CPLP), which is offering election aid to Guinea-Bissau in addition to political advise.
The next day, President Lula moves on to Senegal, where trade and economy again will dominate the agenda. Senegal also receives some technical aid from Brazil and new cooperation accords are expected to be signed in Dakar when Mr Lula meets with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.
In addition to the commercial agenda of President Lula, the Brazilian leader was also seeking to boost his country's diplomatic standing as a representative from the South. Brazil is seeking a permanent chair in the UN Security Council as the UN now is reforming. For that, President Lula will need the support of all current Security Council members and a majority of the UN's member countries.
According to Brazilian press reports, President Lula has achieved support for his country's campaign to get a permanent UN Security Council seat. In Cameroon, President Biya was reported to have promised his support. Also in Nigeria, President Lula was reported to have been successful. There are no reports of what the Brazilian leader had to promise in exchange, but Nigeria is also a possible candidate for a permanent UN Security Council membership, being Africa's most populous country.
The Brazilian President further achieved support for his country's presentation of a candidate to the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Cameroonian President already has promised his country's support for the Brazilian candidacy. Brazil has stood united with many African nations during the last rounds of free trade negotiations hosted by the WTO.
On economic cooperation with West Africa, President Lula was quoted as saying that he lamented that the Brazilian government did not have enough resources to launch major projects in Africa. The state could only contribute with technical assistance.
Larger investments, according to President Lula, had to be left to Brazil's private sector, which however until now has shown little interest in investing in Africa. Not even in Portuguese-speaking countries, where Brazilian companies have competitive advantages, do investments from Brazil play a major role so far. Pleas by the government of Săo Tomé and Príncipe, for example, for Brazilian private investments in its new oil sector have not led to anything.
Brazilian trade with Africa is nevertheless increasing rapidly, according to the government in Brasilia. While the total trade between Africa and Brazil was valued at US$ 6.1 billion in 2003, it increased to an estimated total of US$ 10.4 billion last year, according to the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade.
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