Brazil as an Emerging Donor: Huge Potential and Growing Pains

EDITOR’S NOTE: Considered an emerging donor, Brazil has focused its aid program on Africa, with nearly 40 percent of its technical cooperation grants in 2009 benefiting 19 African countries, according to Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It follows a philosophy that differs considerably from other donors, even with fellow emerging economies such as China, because its development cooperation is not motivated by economic interests. A few excerpts:

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could not hide his disappointment when he visited Maputo, last October (2008). He had expected to see signs of progress in the construction of a $23 million plant to produce generic drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, which his administration had donated to Mozambique. As the most ambitious foreign assistance project ever launched by Brazil, the plant’s project was announced with some fanfare during the Brazilian president’s first visit to Maputo, in 2003. It was to have been built in four phases, with an operational start date in 2010, Lula’s last year in office. Brazil allocated $4 million for the project’s first phase.

The project was launched on the basis of Brazil’s international stature as a model country in the combat of HIV/AIDS, earned as a result of the work of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, known as Fiocruz, which is attached to the country’s Ministry of Health. Bringing the project to Africa, the continent most afflicted by the AIDS pandemic, was a bold political decision on the part of the current Brazilian administration, calculated to give meaning and substance to Lula’s government strategy to expand Brazil’s presence in the southern hemisphere.

Five years later, there was nothing to be measured or seen. During a closed-door meeting with Mozambican president Armando Ermílio Guebuza, Lula blamed the slow pace of the project’s implementation on his own Ministry of External Relations, which coordinates foreign assistance in the federal government through its Agência Brasileira de Cooperação, or ABC. Speaking at the inauguration of a Maputo office of Fiocruz, Lula promised that, in the event of any future obstacles, “we shall clear the path, we shall unblock matters so that we can come to Mozambique in 2010 and definitively inaugurate the Fiocruz laboratory and the anti-retroviral factory.” The plant, planned for the southern Mozambican city of Matola, is to supply AIDS drugs across Africa. To leave no doubt about the president’s frustration with his government’s poor management of the project, Lula’s office played the tape of his conversation with Guebuza to the Brazilian journalists covering the trip.

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