The Brazilian people elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the country's president on Sunday. An election that should delight Africa, which experienced, between 2003 and 2011, developed relations with the South American country.
With 50,9% of the vote, the score was tight to say the least, but enough for Lula to regain power in Brazil from Bolsonaro. Good news for Africa in many respects. Already elected president in 2003, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has done a lot for the continent, while Brazil had, before him, moved away from Third Worldism. As soon as he came to power at the time, Lula had surrounded himself with collaborators whom he had asked to make support for developing countries a priority.
As a result, during Lula's first years in power, the value of trade between Brazil and Africa tripled, as Claudio Ribeiro writes in “Brazil's African Policy and the Lula Government”. Between 1996 and 2006, he continues, Brazil's exports to Africa increased by 487%. With a growth that almost exploded when Lula took over as president.
Good figures which owe, above all, to the particular history between Brazil and Africa. The South American country has more citizens of African descent than any other country in the world, outside the continent. But it was not until the early 1960s, and in particular the government of Jânio Quadros, that Brazil launched an "independent foreign policy", aimed at countries then in the midst of a wave of decolonization. Especially from the former Portuguese colonies. But between the years 1990 and 2003, Brazil forsook Africa.
Fix Bolsonaro's politics
So, inevitably, for the continent, the arrival of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was a breath of fresh air. The Brazilian president has matched words with deeds, visiting Africa no less than four times during his first term alone, and visiting seventeen countries in just two years. He visited nearly thirty until 2010. Ironically, Africa will precipitate Lula in his downfall, the latter having been accused of corruption after having, according to his detractors, favoring the financing of a project of the heavyweight construction company, Odebrecht, in two African countries in particular, Angola and Mozambique.
Lula in prison, Brazil-Africa relations have suffered from the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. The far-right leader has never deigned to visit the continent. In 2019, all the work done by Lula was wasted, with trade between Africa and Brazil hitting an all-time low. No wonder, then, that the Brazilian jewels have left Africa, willingly or not, from the oil company Petrobras to the iron production industry Vale.
Lula's return to power could mean a return to normal in Brazil-Africa relations. The new president, who will be invested in the coming weeks, will have a lot to do to regain normal relations with several countries reluctant to discuss with Brazil. Like South Africa, which opposed the appointment of a Brazilian ambassador who is part of the universal evangelical church, of which Bolsonaro is close. Angola had also expelled several Brazilians from this church.
Economically, Brazil will have to catch up in Africa. China, and even Russia, forged ahead during Bolsonaro's years in power. In this period when the United States tries to polarize Africa, Lula will have a role to play.