The accord signed in Abuja by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to increase trade and investment between South America’s largest economy and Africa’s second-largest (and the world’s eleventh- and twelfth-largest oil producers) is ambitious. It is also a new step in Brazil’s advancement of its soft power among fellow emerging economies.
Nigeria is already Brazil’s main trading partner in Africa. Because of its oil exports westbound across the Atlantic (Petrobras has been producing oil in Nigeria for more than a decade), Nigeria ran a $6.9 billon trade surplus last year on the two countries’ $9 billion of bilateral trade. They are aiming to double that overall trade by 2015. As the agreement pledges to boost cooperation on energy, aviation, agriculture, electricity, infrastructure development and defense — all sectors in which Brazil has industrial experience and sees business opportunities as much as Nigeria has needs as it seeks to diversify from oil — Brazil will be hoping that much of the increase will go to redressing that trade deficit.
Brazil will also be seeking to export its development model. The implementation of the accord will be in the hands of a commission that will include both countries’ vice-presidents, ensuring a strong government and state-swayed enterprise hand in the process. It is a commercial arm to a diplomatic strategy to strengthen Brazil’s international role, and in this case in a part of the world where its fellow Brics China and South Africa are already spreading their influence. It is Rousseff’s first such push outside Brazil’s own hemisphere and an advance for a president who has only slowly expanded the soft-power legacy of her predecessor and mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.