President Lula’s First African Tour, Team in Discussion: BRICS Stronger, Expanding Economic and Diplomatic Ties

Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal could be among the countries chosen by the Brazilian president for his trip to Africa in the coming months. His diplomatic team that handles African affairs is currently working on the visit.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, aka Lula, is believed to be planning to travel to Angola for his first visit to Africa since taking office in January 2023. Other countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal are currently involved in discussions. This will follow trips to America and Europe. A visit to China planned for March was postponed for health reasons.

Lula’s chief foreign policy adviser is Celso Amorim, who was his foreign minister from 2003 until 2010 and then defence minister from 2011 to 2014 under President Dilma Rousseff. Amorim is behind a South-South – Africa and Latin America – orientation of Brazil’s economic and political cooperation, notably via a rapprochement with the BRICS group – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and with the CPLP Portuguese-speaking nations’ club.

Diplomatic team inherited from Bolsonaro
The team at Itamaraty, the palace that houses Brazil’s foreign ministry, in charge of Lula’s upcoming visit was inherited from Lula’s predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

Ana Paula Simões Silva, director of the ministry’s SAOM Africa and Middle East secretariat, was appointed last June by Ciro Nogueira Lima Filho when the latter was Bolsonaro’s chief of staff. She previously held several administrative and diplomatic posts at the ministry. She was, for instance, director of the Department of Administration and Logistics and ambassador to the Permanent Representation of Brazil to International Organisations in London.

The current head of the ministry’s DEAF Africa department, Adriana Sader Tescari, took up her post last October. Márcio Augusto dos Anjos for his part started his job last September as head of the DIAAL Southern and Portuguese-speaking Africa division.

None of the ministry’s senior officials now in charge of handling African affairs have recently been posted to the continent.

Key ambassadors to be appointed
The Brazilian ambassador to Nigeria, Ricardo Guerra de Araújo, is about to head to Romania, where he was posted by the Senate on 21 March, after five years in Abuja. The name of his replacement is not yet known.

The veteran ambassador to South Africa, Benedicto Fonseca Filho, who was appointed last November, is expected to remain in Pretoria. He previously served in the US, Argentina, Ghana, Israel, Cape Verde and at the United Nations in New York.

The ambassador to Angola, Rafael de Mello Vidal, who has been in his post since September 2020 after serving as ambassador to Mali, may be replaced by the end of the year. The Luanda posting is the most important one for Brazil in Africa. The ambassador to Mozambique, Carlos Alfonso Iglesias Puente, appointed in 2018 under President Michel Temer, may also soon be replaced.

The fate of Bruno Luiz Dos Santos Cobuccio, Brazil’s ambassador to Senegal since 2020, is uncertain. He is one of Brazil’s leading experts on French-speaking Africa, having previously served in Libreville and Abidjan.

Relaunching the bilateral relationship
President Lula announced in January that he wanted to reopen embassies closed under Bolsonaro – Sierra Leone and Liberia have been handled by the Brazilian embassy in Ghana since May 2020 – and to revive relations with Africa.

During his first two terms in office, Lula was very active in strengthening Brazil’s relationship with the continent, where he initiated the opening of 19 embassies. Bilateral trade increased sevenfold from 2000 to 2012, from $4bn to $28bn, but fell back to $15.9bn in 2021.

Source: Africa Intelligence