A little more than 12 years ago, I had the great pleasure of participating in a particularly rich phase of the Brazilian foreign policy for Africa, conceived from a universalist and solidary perspective.
As Chief of Staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Ambassador Celso Amorim, I had the chance to accompany him on his first visit to Africa, in preparation for the first African tour of President Lula, whose delegation I also had the honour to integrate.
The importance of Africa is a defining and indispensable component for Brazil. Our country is inconceivable without the African heritage, which is both a reason for us to be proud and a foundation to build the fairer future we want.
The immediate recognition in the 1970s of the independency of the Portuguese speaking African countries – Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe –, the fight against apartheid, and the establishment, by 2002, of a network of 18 diplomatic representations in Africa are some of the facts that show the historic Brazilian engagement with Africa, a continent to which we are so obliged.
The year of 2003 marks the beginning of a particularly auspicious phase in the relationship with Africa, with well-known results: the multiplication of technical cooperation projects involving 45 African countries; the expansion of investments of Brazilian companies and of the trade flow between Brazil and Africa, which has more than quadrupled in 10 years, rising from US$6,1 billion to US$ 28,5 billion in 2013; the expansion of the Brazilian diplomatic network, which has more than doubled, to 37 resident Embassies; the 34 Presidential visits to African countries undertaken in the last 12 years, during the mandates of President Lula and President Dilma Rousseff, specially her participation, in 2013, in the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the African Union.
The Brazilian engagement in the African continent is a State policy which reflects the aspirations of various sectors of the Brazilian society. A fact that may be considered natural within a country where 51,4% of the population is self-declared afrodescendant.
Conjunctural adjustments may momentarily affect the available means, but do not alter our sense of priority. Africa has been and will continue to be an absolute priority of the Brazilian foreign policy.
In this sense, it was with great satisfaction that I attended the request of Ambassador Thomas Bvuma, Dean of the group, for a meeting.
This lunch is the first I have with a regional group of Ambassadors. The African continent was a deliberate choice, which expresses the central role we attribute to the relations between Brazil and Africa.
Brazil will continue to build with its African partners fraternal and broad relations, which reflect, in a balanced way, the main pillars of the bilateral relationship of Brazil with each country here represented: political dialogue, cooperation and economic and trade relations.
This meeting takes place one week before the beginning of the tour I will make to five African countries. Preparations for other missions on the continent, also during this year, are already underway. I also want to increase the visits of African authorities to Brazil. Last month, I had the honour of receiving the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo, Robert Dussey, occasion when the reopening of the Togolese Embassy in Brasilia was announced, news that pleased us very much.
I am also pleased to mention the second edition of the Portuguese Course for African Diplomats in Brasilia. This cycle, with three new groups, will begin on the first week of April, with classes at the Rio Branco Institute.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been attentively following the issues related to Africa, as it could not be otherwise, both bilateral and multilateral, as well as regional, such as the ASA Seminar, to be held on March 26 and 27, here, at Itamaraty. I must also point out that Brazil has always valued the African capacity to understand and search for solutions for their own issues, according to the concept of "African ownership". We are convinced that the African Union and the African regional organisms have a key role to play in the construction of a fairer and multipolar global order.
We advocate that a lasting solution for the main problems of the continent necessarily depends on dialogue and on the promotion of inclusive and sustainable development. Brazil has not refrained from contributing to peace and stability in Africa, either by actively participating in UN Peacekeeping Missions, or by sharing tehcnology and knowledge that we developed when facing similar challenges.
I could not end these words without expressing the solidarity of the Brazilian Government to the people and Government of Tunisia in view of the tragic events of two days ago, at the beautiful Bardo Museum. I am fully convinced that Tunisia, which successfully carries forward an exemplary process of democratic transition, will overcome this moment of pain and will come out even stronger and more cohesive. I also cannot abstain to mention, and vehemently condemn, the attacks this morning which killed over a hundred people in Yemen.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ties between Brazil and Africa are deep, and have strengthened in recent years. We have the common challenge of expanding and increasingly diversify our relations, with boldness and creativity, for the benefit of our sister nations. On this journey, please always count with my full commitment and determination.