Just as Latin America was a major center of opportunity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is possible to say that the 21st century is the century of Africa, claims economist Igor de Lucena of the Brazil Africa Institute.
In an interview with Sputnik Brasil on Wednesday, the second and last day of the Brazil Africa 2019 Forum, in São Paulo, the researcher explained why he considers it so important that Brazil and other partners know how to harness the economic potential that the African continent presents at the beginning of this century.
“Great population growth, a lack of infrastructure, but great potential in natural wealth and agricultural possibilities. If we look at the African scenario today, maybe the scenario is even better than it was in Brazil,” he said.
According to Lucena, contrary to what happened in Brazil and Latin America, when there was a major dependence on European and North American investments, today, Africa is being transformed with the help of China, through the so-called Belt and Road Initiative, and also from India.
“They are transforming the African continent with infrastructure works. Several African elites in some countries are already more interested in their children learning Mandarin than English, because the need for relationships with China should generate more profits in the long run,” he explained.
The economist pointed out that with President Donald Trump’s current US government adopting a more closed geo-economic policy, this means that Washington has no interest in making many investments outside the US, as this would represent an export of jobs. However, this strategy of investing abroad in African countries, for example, is conducted with “returning financial resources,” and Beijing knows this very well.
“In my view, where the flow of capital will be allocated, especially from the countries of the East – Japan is already included in this, because it has a much more pragmatic view – it is on the African continent,” said the expert, explaining that in addition to its full potential, Africa still offers interesting financial advantages such as low interest rates and incentives to migrate resources to the real economy for investment projects.
According to the researcher, Latin America, with all its difficulties, has sufficient Latin American capital “to solve most of our problems”, which is not yet happening in Africa.
“Market clutter itself keeps you from creating savings. And without creating savings, how are you going to invest in what you need: new technologies, startups, product diversification? So, what’s the point? Foreign direct investment [foreign direct investment]. These resources are not migrating to speculation but to the real economy,” he continued.
Igor de Lucerna believes that Brazil is fully capable of being one of these major direct investors in the African economy, as it has sufficient companies and funds. What remains is to define “where to go and how to get there.”
“In the context of BRICS, Brazil is the only one that is not in there,” said the economist, indicating that agriculture can be a “gateway.”
‘Moment is more of gathering than spreading’
A the end of the Brazil Africa 2019 Forum, João Bosco Monte, president of the Brazil Africa Institute, said he was convinced of his entity’s mission to bring Brazilians and Africans closer, regardless of political actions by governments.
“We are absolutely sure that our agenda of approaching Brazilian and African interests, both at government level, private enterprise level, involved civil society, multilateral organizations, is independent of the mood of the government or governments,” he said when questioned about a possible recent decrease in the intensity of cooperation between Brazil and Africa, which, according to him, could not be perceived so far.
According to Monte, he and his partners are concerned with setting an agenda and then inviting government power, but it is free to “participate if you want to participate and if you think it is congruent with what you think.”
“I understand that the present moment is much more a moment of gathering than spreading. Our perspective, as an international organization that takes care of an approach agenda between organizations and people from Brazil and the African continent – and now, much more than which before, involving other regions – strengthens the conviction, the genesis of the Brazil Africa Institute, which is to present good practices from Brazil to Africa and from Africa to Brazil. And in the end, this turns into opportunities for those who are involved.”