Brazil’s approach to “south-south cooperation” with Africa – oportunidades e desafios

I was recently involved in a review for DfID of a programme which is supporting the Brazilian Government and their Agencia Brasileira de Cooperação to develop new approaches to south-south cooperation (SSC) with low income countries (LIC’s) in Africa such as Mozambique.

The Annual Review has been published and is available from the DfID website through the Development Tracker portal but also attached here: Annual Review of BBDI 204124 August 2015 Publishable

The review highlighted some of the major differences and possible advantages of Brazil’s approach to international development cooperation – which is based on (a) fundamental values of mutual respect for national sovereignty and lack of conditionality, (b) a demand-led approach to sharing of Brazil’s own remarkable story of economic and social development in the last 10 – 15 years and (c) placing much greater responsibility on institutions of the beneficiary country to plan, manage and take full ownership of their own development projects with guidance and assistance from Brazilian counterparts.

However, the review also highlighted some of the difficulties of the Brazilian approach to “bilateral cooperation” with countries in Africa such as Mozambique and also DfID’s own approach to “trilateral cooperation” with Brazil. These included questions about (a) systemic and sustainable developmental impact – many projects in health, social protection and food security areas are still at an early stage of implementation and will require substantive funding from the national budget to be sustainable, (b) comparative costs and timeframe for delivery of assistance using Brazil’s methodology and (c) lack of coordination between projects that Brazil is supporting e.g. with the Mozambican Ministry of Health to develop human milk banks and the overall agreed strategic plan for the sector which DfID and other bilaterals and multilaterals are supporting.

Despite these challenges (desafios), Brazilian counterparts we met in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro are fully aware that this is a process of learning by experience and also from other more experienced development partners, such as the UK/ DfID, as well. I was overall impressed by Brazil’s approach and believe they can play a key role in helping many countries in Africa work out their own approaches to tackling some of the key socio-economic development challenges out to 2030 (based around the framework of the recently agreed UN Sustainable Development Goals).

I would encourage Brazilian partners to take every opportunity to share this experience more widely, particularly here in the UK – especially in 2016 when the eyes of the world will once more be on Rio for the Olympic Games. There is clearly much more to Brazil than beaches, football and samba…they have a fantastic story to tell of how to tackle poverty, inequality and social exclusion (and associated serious problems of crime and violence) through progressive and activist state intervention, while also respecting fundamental human rights to freedom of expression and association of its citizens. Perhaps a few more official visits to Brasilia rather than Beijing and Delhi by EU development ministers are also required?

Alan Harding, London, 20/09/15


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