Opinion, by Aklilu Shiketa
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Foreign Minister of Brazil, Mr. Antonio Patriota, recently disclosed that Brazil today has more embassies in Africa than the United Kingdom. Only between 2003 and 2010, Brazil opened seventeen new embassies in Africa. President Dilma Rousseff visited three African countries already. She has established Africa Working Group to help strengthen the Brazil and Africa cooperation.
In April, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota has been in Ethiopia. He signed a number of bilateral agreements that would ensure Brazil`s partnership with that country. According to the Itamaraty Palace, the visit of Mr. Patriota reflects the strengthening of bilateral ties since the opening of the Brazilian Embassy in Addis Ababa.
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia welcomed the intensified engagement that Brazil is undergoing with Africa. He called for Brazil and Ethiopia to work together in the areas of renewable energy, infrastructure development, and agricultural research.
The visit to Ethiopia of Minister Patriota has been a milestone in the wider context of Brazil-Africa relations. Not only because Ethiopia is the Head Quarters of the African Union, but also, it is the fastest growing economy in Africa. According to The Economist´s Intelligence Unit, Ethiopia is forecast to be the third fastest growing economy in the world during the next four years.
Walking the Walk Together
Both Brazil and Africa have interest to see reforms happening at the United Nations Security Council and international financial institutions. There is a widespread belief on both sides that the institutions do not reflect the existing reality.
As, its Prime Minister being Africa´s spokesperson at the Climate Change Conferences, G20, and World Economic Forum, Ethiopia therefore is perfectly positioned to work with Brazil towards achieving Africa as Brazil interests. Thus, Minister Patriota was right when he told his counterpart, Ethiopia`s Foreign Minister Hailmariam Desalegn that Brazil wishes to cooperate with Ethiopia in the areas of regional and global affairs, in addition to trade investment.
In the last decade several African countries opened their embassies in Brasilía. Ethiopia is one of them. The fact that Ethiopia’s decision to open its embassy in Brazil was followed by the closure of its embassies in Sweden and Canada sent a strong message that Ethiopia is determined to strengthen its relations with Brazil.
Ethiopia’s role, in its capacity as a Coordinator of Africa Group, in rallying Africa during the election campaign for Director Generalship of FAO in 2010 behind the Brazilian candidate Mr. Jose Graziano da Silva, which was also another demonstration of its determination to strengthen its relation with Brazil.
Like in Brazil, Ethiopian government policy priorities include poverty eradication, investing in education, and expanding infrastructure. Such policy measures paid off resulting in 11.4 percent GDP growth rate in 2011/2012.
Foreign direct investment from a number of Asian, European and Middle Eastern countries has been flowing. The sectors in which the foreign companies engaged include agribusiness, manufacturing, construction of railroads and power stations.
All the business areas are what Brazilian companies are good at. Brazilian companies can also be involved in supplying machineries or components for ten sugar factories under construction.
Brazilian companies exporting to the Middle East can seize the opportunity of being in Ethiopia for Ethiopia is located just by the Red Sea. In fact, mining giant Vale and construction giant Andrade Gutierrez have started working in Ethiopia.
The fact that both the Brazilian government and its companies intend to intensify their relations with Ethiopia suggests that the Brazil-Africa relation now is not just limited to the small circle of Portuguese speaking countries.