Lula meets African presidents, speaks of strong Global South

The president attended the 37th African Union Summit as a guest

Published on 19/02/2024 - 11:25 By Léo Rodrigues - Rio de Janeiro

On a visit to Ethiopia, Brazilian President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva said Sunday (Feb. 18) that Brazil has a historical debt to Africa and advocated that the countries of the Global South step up their relations. He traveled to attend the 37th African Union Summit, which brought together heads of state and members of government from the 54 countries of the African continent. As a guest, President Lula took the opportunity to hold meetings and bolster bilateral ties.

“Brazil doesn’t have everything, but we want to share everything Brazil has with the African continent. We want to give them back, in the form of possibilities and development, what they gave us as workforce for 350 years,” President Lula declared, referring to the period during which slavery lasted in Brazil. The period starts with the arrival of the first enslaved black people in Recife in 1538 and ends with the signing of the Lei Áurea in 1888.

The Brazilian leader said Brazil should have a preferential relationship with the African continent and that strategic partnerships should be developed in the energy transition, low-carbon agriculture, and other climate-related issues—“not only because Africa is part of our history, our culture, our color, and our way of being, speaking, and singing, but also because the African continent is an extraordinary space for the future for those who believe that the Global South will be the novelty of the 21st century in the world economy,” he said.

In his view, the nations of the southern hemisphere must become stronger by expanding business among themselves. “We were once known around the world as poor countries, as third-world countries, as underdeveloped countries, as developing countries. No. Now we are the economy of the Global South. We want to give ourselves a chance so that the Global South, which has part of what the world needs today, can take its place in the global economy, politics, and culture.”

18.02.2024 - Presidente da República, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, durante encontro com o Presidente da República do Quênia, William Ruto. Adis Abeba - Etiópia.

Foto: Ricardo Stuckert / PR
Kenyan President William Ruto expressed interest in Brazilian agricultural machinery - Ricardo Stuckert / PR

Bilateral meetings

The trip to Ethiopia, the president said, was the most important he has made in this administration, as the 37th African Union Summit provided him with the opportunity to talk to almost all of the African continent’s heads of state at once. “If I were to visit every country, it would take 54 trips and it would be impossible to do,” he noted.

During his visit to the continent, the Brazilian president held bilateral meetings with some heads of state. One of them was Kenyan President William Ruto, who expressed interest in Brazilian agricultural machinery. In another assembly, with the chair of the Presidential Council of Libya, Mohamed al-Menfi, they discussed the reopening of the Brazilian embassy in the country, closed since 2014. President Lula also criticized the lack of direct flights between Brazil and Nigeria. The issue was one of the topics of the bilateral meeting with the president of the African country, Bola Tinubu.

Brazilians involved in trade need to travel the world more in search of business, the president argued. Brazil, he added, has more opportunities to do business with developing nations than with European countries today.

“There’s no explanation for a country of 200 million inhabitants like Brazil to have relations with Ethiopia, which has 126 million inhabitants, and for us to only have a trade flow of 23 million dollars. Even with Egypt, with whom we have our largest trade balance in Africa, it was $2.8 billion. That’s very little for a country that wants to have a voice in the world,” he remarked.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Aline Leal

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