Brazil move to rekindle fading relations with southern Africa

Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – Brazil’s minister of external relations Aloysio Nunes was in southern Africa this week to salvage what’s left of Brazilian trade with the region Africa and Africa at large.

Statistics reveal that Brazil’s trade with southern African countries have significantly declined due to the economic crisis that the south American country suffered in the last two years.

Brazil lost about 10 percent of its Gross Domestic Product within that period brought upon by the political turmoil that led to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff as president last year.

Seeing that the trading relations with countries like Namibia are still dwindling, Nunes took it upon himself to visit the region, this past week.

Nunes, who was appointed to the external relations portfolio last month, visited Namibia on Monday, and was due to visit Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

Nunes told The Southern Times after meeting President Dr Hage Geingob at State House that the economic crisis that has befallen his country has affected economic relations with southern Africa and that he is in the region to rekindle relations.

He said with the new president at the helm, Brazil’s economy is now recovering and is set to bring about new levels of economic growth.

Brazil is now looking to have new investments in southern Africa.

“Our current president considers that trade in general is one of the key pillars towards development and of course trade brings about investments. Africa is high priority in our external policy.”

He added that Africa is the first continent that Brazil decided to engage with, as stipulated in the country’s foreign policy.

The minister felt that this was an opportunity to make Africa the greatest partner for Brazil on an international stage.

“Our former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had a huge task concerning Africa but after him, the level (of participation in Africa) decreased. And now we are engaging to increase the level of Brazilian presence in all the areas of social life,” he said.

In Botswana, Nunes was expected to reaffirm Brazil’s support for Botswana’s development and the strengthening of relations in defence and trade.

It would, however, be the first time that a Brazilian foreign minister visits Malawi since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1964.

The Brazilian foreign ministry noted that the relationship with Malawi had diversified in recent years with the launching of a cooperation and investment agenda.

During the visit, the Memorandum of Understanding for Facilitation of Business Visas, the Visa Waiver Agreement for Diplomatic, Official and Service Passports and the Agreement for the Exercise of Activities Paid by Dependents were expected to be signed.

Nunes also expected to sign a number of agreements in Mozambique, including the Social Security Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Establishment of Political Consultations.

Relations with Namibia

Following his courtesy call on President Geingob, Nunes said Brazil was enjoying a peaceful relationship with Namibia, since before independence, and wanted to build on and stabilise this relationship.

The key focus of bilateral relations between the two countries included the reduction and eradication of poverty and the promotion of investment and trade, he said.

“We are looking at concrete efficient steps within our external policies in this regard,” he said.

Namibia’s Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said Brazil and Namibia enjoyed cordial relations, but said there was room for expansion.

But despite the two countries having signed cooperating agreements in areas such as geology, agriculture, logistics, health, culture and military assistance among others, there were still some pending agreements that needed to be signed.

In addition, Nandi-Ndaitwah, who doubles as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, enthused: “Our bilateral relations have been cordial but there is scope for expansion to cover many socio-economic areas of mutual interests.

“There are many cooperation agreements that have been signed between our two countries in areas such as Geology, Agriculture, Logistics, Health, Culture, Education, Sports, Justice and Law Enforcement and Military Assistance,” she said.

“Some progress has also been made in the logistics sector following the opening of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group Office in Sao Paulo with the aim to facilitate a direct shipping line between Santos and Walvis Bay.

“The first direct shipping line already started in November 2012. This Santos-Walvis Bay direct shipping line has the potential to increase the trade volume between Namibia and Brazil and would immensely benefit landlocked SADC member states. This for us is a step in the right direction and the potential thereof cannot be overemphasised”. She then lobbied for Brazil to support Namibia’s bid to host the African regional office for the Green Climate Fund. “Let me inform you that Namibia has launched its bid to host the African Regional Office for the Green Climate Fund and have engaged the Presidents of the countries whose nationals serve on the Board of the Green Climate Fund to lobby for support.  In this regard, your support for Namibia’s bid will be appreciated,” Nandi-Ndaitwah appealed to Nunes during their meeting in Windhoek.

Namibia can learn from Brazil

Nunes said Brazil could assist Namibia in the fight against poverty, adding that the south American nation had great experience in poverty reduction.

“We even have a system where we transfer money to poor families to upgrade their living standards,” he explained.

Brazil has over the years implemented various social policies through which the poor have better access to assets and prices of goods are regulated to ensure affordability.

In 2001, the South American state implemented a programme similar to that of Mexico, through which poor households under a certain monthly income receive a monthly grant but on condition children attend school regularly and pregnant women visit clinics. By 2007, the income-inequality in Brazil had declined and the income of the poor had increased by about 7 percent.

• Additional reporting by Namibia Press Agency

May 2017
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