Good afternoon. In 2015, Brazilian journalist Amanda Rossi wrote a book entitled Moçambique, o Brasil é aqui. It recounted tales of Mozambique and Brazil’s deepening business ties — most obviously through Vale’s investment in coal mining in Moatize, but also the ambitious agriculture project ProSavana, an urban transit project for Maputo, and an international airport in the city of Nacala, among others.
By the time Rossi’s book came out, however, the relationship was beginning to unravel. Corruption had been uncovered, or at least alleged, in some of the deals, in particular around the construction of the Moamba Major dam, and in the sale of Embraer aircraft to Mozambican airline LAM. Nacala Airport proved to be a white elephant with no way of paying for itself, and Aeroportos de Moçambique defaulted on the debt to Brazilian development bank BNDES. Eventually even Vale left.
The driving force behind Brazil’s engagement with Mozambique was President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-winger with a vision for ‘south-south cooperation’ and a driving force behind the BRICS initiative to try and create a more multi-polar world. Probably his greatest legacy, however, was in tackling poverty and hunger at home.
Lula’s outreach to Africa was not continued by his successor Dilma Roussef, or by the man who followed her, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-winger who showed little interest in the continent (for which we should probably be grateful).
But now Lula is back, reelected in dramatic fashion last year — and apparently keen to undo the undoing of his legacy, including re-wooing Africa, in particular fellow Portuguese-speakers like Mozambique. It remains to be seen what this will mean in practice; there are some hard lessons to learn from last time around. But if, instead of ill-advised mega-projects, Lula can bring his experience of tackling hunger and poverty, then his return could prove very important.
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