Bolsonaro’s victory is likely to see Brazil scale down Africa interests

Amy Niang, University of the Witwatersrand

His first son is a senator for the state of Rio do Janeiro. His second son a municipal councillor in the city of Rio, and his third is a federal deputy for the state of São Paulo. And he himself has served seven terms as deputy and as member of several political parties.

Yet Jair Bolsonaro, the favourite candidate for Brazil’s upcoming runoff presidential elections, likes to present himself as a new man who operates outside of the “system”.

The rhetoric of a new man, untainted by the culture of corruption that prevails among the political class, is a powerful device. It’s succeeded in folding the interests of disparate social categories into those of seasoned right wing politicians.

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Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on the campaign trail in Rio.
FEF-EPA/Marcelo Sayao

Bolsonaro is candidate for the Social Liberty Party. He’s the author of incendiary pronouncements, happily racist, misogynist and homophobic. The former army captain has managed to coalesce eclectic crowds whose commitment to democracy depends on the exclusion of entire sections of Brazilian society. He has colossal support among Brazil’s prolific evangelical communities. These have re-purposed their religious fervour to passionate hate and the demonising of adversaries.

Bolsonaro assuages the fears of a middle class that feels it’s lost privilege. He also confirms their aversion for Brazil’s internal “others” – namely black Brazilians and various Indian communities. In fact, he promises to keep privilege spaces of university education, residential suburbs and commercial spaces free from poor people.

For Bolsonaro, the choice Brazilians have to make is rather simple: it’s either “prosperity, freedom, family and God” – in other words him, or “the path of Venezuela”. In other words Fernando Haddad’s Workers’ Party.

In the first round of elections, Bolsonaro’s party secured 46% of the total vote. Haddad’s Workers’ party secured 29%. Haddad is routinely the victim of his opponent’s foul mouth. Bolsonaro is a slavery-denialist, who claims that the Portuguese never set foot in Africa and that Africans themselves “delivered” slaves to Brazil.

Needless to say his views on Africa are narrowly informed by the prism of Brazil’s uneasy, strained and unresolved racial question. As a result, his government can be expected to scale back Brazil’s engagements with the continent.

The end of Lula’s Africa moment?

Bolsonaro is expected to turn threats by the current administration to close Brazilian embassies in Africa into policies. Cutbacks on scholarships for African students are also expected.

At home he’s expected to put further restrictions on immigration and to withdraw into national priorities. These include Brazil’s economic doldrums, its fractured society, the high levels of crimes and more crucially the economic recession.

The only area where a Bolsonaro government policy might intersect with previous policy could be the military cooperation and the trade in military equipment.

If little is known about Bolsonaro’s views on foreign policy in relation to Africa, his running mate, General Hamilton Mourão, has been very clear. During a recent speech he criticised Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s South-South diplomacy claiming that it had resulted in costly association with “dirtbag scum” countries (African) that did not yield any “returns.

Africa was the centrepiece of Lula da Silva’s geopolitical aspirations for Brazilian status in an expanded and reformed multilateralism. In eight years of his presidency he visited 27 African countries over 12 trips.

But Brazil’s Africa moment had already began to fade under Rousseff. The election of Bolsonaro is likely to signal the beginning of the end of Africa-Brazil relations as we know them. It could even mean the end of the five country grouping known as BRICS as he has promised to review Brazil’s participation in the coalition.

Brazil’s relations with Africa have been particularly strong with the Lusophone countries of Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe. Angola in particular became a springboard in Brazil’s expansion into the South Atlantic beyond the Lusophone world.

Lula da Silva sought to institutionalise the new Global South framework in the form of a biannual Africa South America Summit and also through the India, Brazil South Africa Dialogue Forum. He doubled Brazil’s diplomatic presence in Africa between 2000 and 2010. By 2010 there were 39 embassies. Over the same period, 18 African embassies opened in Brasilia.

These various initiatives fed a momentum in Brazil’s rise to global prominence. Brazil was for instance able to get José Graziano da Silva elected Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation with the strong support of African countries.

Beyond punctual strategies, Brazil’s engagement with Africa served to enhance its global standing and to buttress Brazil’s ambition to become a leading voice of the Global South.

Economic strategies

Brazil’s economic strategies took an expansionist pattern similar to that of other emerging powers. They targeted resources-rich and fast growing economies. Main export destinations were Egypt and Nigeria. Imports come mainly from Algeria and Nigeria.

Between 2000 and 2013, trade between Brazil and Africa expanded from $USD4.3 to USD$28.5 billion. But it dropped by USD$12.4 billion in 2016 following economic recession and political upheaval in Brazil.

Brazil’s economic engagement with Africa is not without its problems. For instance, the infrastructure giant Odebrecht is at the heart of Operação Lava-Jato (Operation Car War) which exposed the largest corruption scandal in the history of modern democracy. It involved over 200 leaders across the political and business sectors and over USD$2 billion.

Under Bolsonaro, economic ties can be expected to take a different turn. Institutions such as the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation can be expected to grow in prominence in Africa as he makes a big push for agro-business expansion. This will come with its own set of problems, notably pollution caused by fertilisers and attendant health risks. That, however, is unlikely to deter him.The Conversation

Amy Niang, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Wist University, Visiting Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Press Release – Africa Adaptation Initiative: A Response to Africa Biggest Challenge

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, September 19, 2018/ — The first Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) Partners ( Roundtable Meeting will take place on Monday 24 September 2018, from 10.30 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. in New-York at the UN Secretariat Conference Room 5, in margins of 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba Africa Adaptation InitiativeThis is jointly hosted by the Gabonese Government, on behalf of the African Union’s Committee of Head of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Over 40 leaders including Mrs Patricia ESPINOSA, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Mr Eric SOLHEIM, UNEP Administrator, Josefa Leonel Correia SACKO, African Union Commissioner, Pierre GUISLAIN, Deputy President of the African development Bank (AfDB), countries and organizations, have confirmed to participate to this important meeting.

This will be an opportunity to consider the most effective measures to help close the Adaptation Gap in Africa, which experts estimate to be between USD 7 billion and 15 billion per year by 2020, increasing thereafter.

While all African countries are investing significant domestic resources in their own response to climate change, through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), there is still a significant gap that requires international support in terms of finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building.

Every day African countries have to face the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture, water, access to natural resources, and millions are struggling to adapt to the harmful effects coastal erosion, floods, desertification and the devastation of disasters caused by extreme weather events. These multiple consequences of climate change make adaptation the priority for Africa.

Ali Bongo Ondimba 2014As the current chair of CAHOSCC and the AAI Champion, the President of Gabon, H.E. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, has firmly taken the lead in the drive to accelerate action on climate change adaptation in Africa, working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to mobilize through this roundtable $ 5 Million to support the 3 years AAI work programme.

“Africa, with its means, is deploying all its energy to fight the cancer of modern development that is climate change.This must therefore also lead our partners to mobilise their efforts relentlessly, in accordance with commitments that are continually repeated but still insufficiently implemented. I therefore invite all our partners to join the transformation train to boost Paris’ momentum and turn our words into deeds. For as I have said since Paris. The cost of inaction will be greater and heavier than that of action”, said H.E. Mr. Ali BONGO ONDIMBA, President of The Gabonese Republic, Coordinator of Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Africa Adaptation Initiative.

Press Release: U.S. Senators condemn democratic backsliding in Uganda

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) released the following statement on the current situation in Uganda.

Senators Uganda Bobi Wine


“As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we are gravely concerned about the continued deterioration of democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms in Uganda. The actions of the Government of Uganda towards its critics—protesters, opposition supporters, and parliamentarians like Members of Parliament Frances Zaake and Robert Kyangulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine—are unacceptable. Likewise, we are extremely troubled by the beating and arrest of journalists during these events, and by reports that foreign correspondents are being denied accreditation to work in Uganda.

“We call upon the Ugandan authorities to conduct a credible investigation into the murder of Yasin Kawuma, and into the reports of beatings, torture, and the use of lethal force on civilians by security forces during the Arua Municipality by-election campaign and subsequent protests, and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. It is critical to Uganda’s democracy that Parliament is respected as an independent institution of the government, and that Members of Parliament can execute their mandate without threat or interference. We strongly urge President Museveni and the Ugandan Government to adhere to the rule of law, and respect freedom of expression, press, and assembly granted by the country’s constitution. As Bobi Wine and Francis Zaake return to Uganda after medical treatment, we will closely monitor their situation, and that of those who face charges alongside them.”

Solar kits and battery lamps are replacing kerosene across Africa

Jörg Peters, University of Passau

For decades, people in rural Africa have been using sooty kerosene lamps to dimly light their homes. But in recent years households, even in poor areas, have started to replace their kerosene lamps with non-rechargeable dry-cell battery driven lamps and solar kits. This is happening largely without any governmental or donor involvement. These devices are equipped with light-emitting diodes (LED) that have become significantly cheaper over the years. This has, in turn, made them a highly efficient technology affordable, even for poor people living in rural areas.

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Many rural communities across Africa have dropped kerosene lighting for various electrical lights.

Our study covering seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa shows how privately supplied dry-cell battery driven lamps as well as solar kits have facilitated a lighting transition. Cheap supplies of disposable batteries and lamps mostly from China, have found their way into the most remote villages in the region.

A quote from a Senegalese expert we engaged with in the field summarises this transition:

Chinese torches have electrified Africa, not World Bank.

At least for basic electric lighting provision this seems to be true. Obviously, LED torches do not replace the need for more powerful electricity that can be used for productive purposes.

The lighting transition away from kerosene is a remarkable development that challenges the traditional understanding of how mass electrification happens – and how mass adoption of a technology shapes up. The convention is that these processes are initiated from the top by governmental or non-governmental organisations supported by a development agent like the World Bank or its Lighting Global programme, which specialises in supporting sustainable growth of the global off-grid lighting market.

But, in the case of dry-cell battery driven lamps, the technology has diffused without any top-down support. It’s an amazing tale of technology diffusion that has happened without any institutional support.

The transition away from kerosene

We came across an intriguing example in small villages in rural Rwanda we were surveying for a randomised controlled trial on solar kits. We found that people had replaced kerosene lamps with dry-cell battery LED lamps. Slightly better-off households were using ready-made flashlight – either smaller torches or much brighter multi-diode lamps.

Even the poorest people could afford the investment by hand-crafting one-diode torches, connected to disposable batteries tied by banana leaves. We were told by a number of people that kids had brought the idea from school, where it spread through word-of-mouth channels.

Admittedly, our lighting transition study covers only selected places in seven countries. But the similarity of these patterns across all of them suggests it can be generalised to other regions.

And the economic argument – affordability and scalability of LED-lamps – seems to be universal. LED torches are cheaper to run than kerosene lamps. In addition, the scalability from handcrafting dim one-diode lights (that come at less than a dollar) to bright multi-diode lamps (that can cost several dollars) solves the liquidity constraint problem attached to more lumpy investments.

LED seems to be a perfectly adaptive pro-poor technology. Households can scale the investment according to their ability to pay. Not least, rural dwellers everywhere have a high preference for LED over kerosene.

How about quality?

The concern of many donor agencies – including Lighting Global – is that the quality of these LED lamps and low cost solar lanterns is poor, particularly when it comes to their durability. Based on this assumption they advocate quality verified products.

Yet, in a case study in Burkina Faso we showed that this is only true when one considers the absolute quality, not the quality relative to the upfront costs. For a household with low purchasing power it is not rational to invest in a high-quality kit that lasts, say, twice as long but costs three times as much. Given that poor people don’t have much cash and have many other urgent and essential things to deal with, it’s perfectly reasonable that they would prefer a cheaper solar lamp over a more expensive one – even if it breaks sooner.

This raises concerns about the inappropriate disposal of electronic waste. The shorter durability of non-quality-verified products and the surging consumption of dry-cell batteries in rural Africa is leading to more and more electronic waste. This increasing environmental burden needs to be addressed. Here, quality-verified solar kits and their licensed vendor network can have an important role, as we argue in another paper.


The LED dissemination success story has provided poor people in Africa with access to clean lighting sources.

This suggests that expectations about the impact of electrification have to be updated. Most notably, positive health effects by a reduction of kerosene induced air pollution as it was observed in El Salvador might not materialise anymore in Africa. At the same time, policy makers should have an eye on an emerging new problem: the massive increase of electronic waste in areas were no waste management system is in place.The Conversation

Jörg Peters, Professor, University of Passau

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

DRC election: dangers behind Bemba’s possible candidacy?

Reuben Loffman, Queen Mary University of London

The possible return of Jean-Pierre Bemba has shocked many in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With just over five months before the presidential and gubernatorial elections, he has reemerged to challenge President Joseph Kabila’s political order. And despite his chequered past, Bemba has a popular following.

Congo DRC Jean-Pierre Bemba Joseph KabilaMore than two years ago Bemba was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to 18 years in jail. But in June this year his appeal against most of his convictions was successful. He may therefore be out of jail sooner than originally thought.

Bemba was also convicted of witness tampering and/or bribing witnesses. This appeal is ongoing.

Bemba’s schedule, including his return to the DRC, has not been confirmed. But many suspect he will head back to his home country. His party, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), has nominated him as their presidential candidate only weeks after his conviction was quashed. He has been in touch with his supporters whom he spoke to on telephone recently to thank them. He promised that he would return soon.

Central Africa and the international community will have to pay close attention to Bemba’s plans despite the fact that he has been away from the Congolese political scene for a number of years. His possible entry into the fray has thrown an already uncertain situation into further disarray. For one, it’s unclear who he would run against. If Kabila insists on standing again – which constitutionally he’s not allowed to do – the DRC faces another period of increasing uncertainty, and almost inevitably more violence.

Bemba’s history

Although Bemba will be welcomed home by some, his history in Congolese politics has been controversial and he has many enemies.

Born in 1962 in what is now Nord-Ubangi, in north-western Congo, Bemba was the son of a successful businessman, Jeannot Bemba Saolona. In the 1990s, Joseph Mobutu hired Bemba as his personal assistant when the latter was in his 30s.

In 1998, when the Democratic Republic of Congo was in the grip of the Second Congo War, Bemba began the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) with support from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The Second Congo War had begun after Laurent Kabila dismissed the Rwandan handlers who had guided him to power during the First Congo War. Rwanda then launched an invasion of the Congo. Other nations joined in to support either side.

The MLC tried to protect communities which it felt were sympathetic to its cause during the fighting. By repelling the invading Rwandan-backed forces it gained control of much of the northwestern parts of the Congo. In his defence at the ICC, Bemba claimed to have re-opened hospitals and schools as the war raged. Yet in fact, the MLC was known for its ethnic cleansing of the Twa (“Pygmy”) peoples during this conflict.

The MLC also operated beyond the DRC’s borders. It was invited into the Central African Republic by then President, Ange-Félix Patassé, to suppress a suspected coup attempt. Human rights advocates suspected Bemba and his party of committing human rights violations during his time in the CAR. Nothing resulted from these suspicions at the time.

Once the peace process in the DRC began following the signing of the Second Sun City deal that was struck in April 2002, Bemba became part of the country’s transitional government.

He served as one of four vice presidents under Kabila who came to power in 2003 in an arrangement that was dubbed ‘1 + 4’. It was an uneasy arrangement, however, because elections were due in 2006 and both Bemba and Kabila wanted to be president.

Fight for supremacy

Bemba and Kabila fought a bitter campaign against one another. Bemba’s slogan, “100% Congolese,” was widely interpreted to be a slight on his opponent’s heritage because, although Kabila was born in the Congo, rumours abounded that he was in fact from Tanzania. That notwithstanding, by the end of October 2006 Kabila had won the second round run-off.

During the election there was significant fighting between Bemba’s troops and those loyal to Kabila. A number of soldiers and civilians were killed.

In 2007, Bemba fled to the South African embassy in Kinshasa before leaving for Portugal on the pretext of seeking medical treatment there. In fact he was fleeing the violence. In his absence, the state came down hard on MLC activists.

But it took until 2008 for Bemba to be arrested in Brussels. His International Criminal Court trial began in 2010 and he was convicted in 2016.

A Bemba presidency

Having been exonerated from most of his convictions, Bemba now joins only a handful of candidates who have declared their intention to stand. They include, first, Felix Tshisekedi, the son of the late opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi, and leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress.

The second candidate of note is Moise Katumbe, the former governor of Katanga and leader of a political alliance called ‘Ensemble pour le Changement’ (‘Together for Change’). Katumbe has declared his intention to run but he is unlikely to be on the ballot because of a three-year jail sentence he has been ordered to serve for illegally selling a property. He is currently in a period of self-imposed exile as he awaits the elections.

The deadline for candidates to declare their intention to stand for President is 8 August. Many candidates are likely to wait until the last minute to declare, when they are sure they stand a good chance.

It remains to be seen whether Bemba will face off against his old nemesis, Kabila. The image Kabila’s party is pushing is that he will stand despite being constitutionally barred from doing so.

The ConversationGiven Kabila’s potential candidacy, and Bemba’s entrance onto the Congolese political scene, election related violence could further intensify in the DRC.

Reuben Loffman, Lecturer in African History, Queen Mary University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.