Monday, 4 August 2014

Brazil’s maritime influence in Africa and its consequences for the EU

In the past decade, Brazil has been working to improve its maritime relations with West-African countries. Brazil’s aim is to make the South Atlantic Ocean its sphere of influence. As such, it is reaching out to the African countries on the South Atlantic Ocean. By creating what Brazil describes as a “Belt of good will” across the South Atlantic it hopes to create a common defense of the region and a fortification of its international presence.

Brazil has the advantage that it is the largest maritime power in the South Atlantic. This area was of little importance for NATO and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and as such Brazil stepped in to become the leading nation in this region. What is significant is that Brazil has been reaching out across the Ocean towards Africa and not only to Portuguese speaking countries like Angola. In the past decade, Brazil has been signing bilateral military co-operation programs with South-Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria and Senegal.

The Lusophone countries: Portuguese speaking nations
are mainly seperated by the Atlantic

The military programs often focus on joint training exercises and exchange programs. Lately however there is also an increase in the export of Brazilian made weaponry to Africa. As a direct result of this military co-operation Brazil’s influence in Africa have been on the rise both politically and economically. The amount of African embassies in Brazil as well as Brazilian embassies in Africa has been rising and economic trade between Brazil and Africa has increased six fold since 2000 to USD 27 billion in 2012.

Brazil’s influence in western Africa is potential bad news for the European Union (EU). Several of its member states are having a new focus on Africa and are starting to develop their own military partnership programs with African countries. Each of these member states might find out that they are being pushed back into a secondary position as Brazil keeps fortifying its leading role in Africa. Brazil’s three Amazonas-class offshore patrol vessels all had their maiden voyages towards west Africa where they participated in anti-piracy exercises with Cape Verde, Benin, Nigeria, Angola, Mauritania, Ghana, Cameroon and São Tome and Principe The focus of each of these exercises is on combating illegal activities such as piracy, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and smuggling. These topics are also the main focus of many military co-operation programs that EU members are offering to African countries.

At the same time Brazil is in a better position to sell weapons systems to African countries. As Brazilian weapons are less expensive and less sophisticated then their European counterparts, they are a prime choice for African armies and navies. This places the EU at a disadvantage in providing African countries with the weapons they want as Brazil can in most cases offer better deals.

As Brazil keeps fortifying its position as a leading nation in the South Atlantic Ocean it reaches out to west African countries. What started as bilateral military programs allowed Brazil to increase both its political and economic influence in Africa. This puts Brazil opposite of the EU as some of its member states are planning to get more involved in Africa and are planning to have their own co-operation programs. As Brazil is capable of offering training programs and weapon systems against a lower cost it can outmaneuver the EU. As such, Brazil’s geopolitical rise and subsequent power projection are, unintentionally, a threat to the EU who will see its influence in Africa diminished.

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