Opinion Articles

Brazil’s President Visit to Nigeria and Implications for the BRICS

The visit culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the setting up of the Nigeria-Brazil Bi-national Commission with the aim of boosting trade and economic activities between the two countries. Specifically, the commission is expected to focus on sectors such as agriculture and food security, petroleum, power, bio-fuel, trade and investment, mining, education, aviation, infrastructure management, finance and culture. Beyond economics and business, the two countries also agreed on the need for the United Nations Security Council to become more democratic. The two countries also agreed to exchange information about their candidates for various international posts in order to support such candidates.  A number of potential conclusions can be drawn from President Dilma’s visit to Nigeria.

First, economic, business and diplomatic ties between Nigeria and Brazil which officially started in 1961 would likely be strengthened. As at 2011, Nigeria’s total import from Brazil was about US$1.2bn while export to Brazil (mainly crude oil) is estimated at about US$8.4bn, implying a positive trade balance for Nigeria. Nigeria’s has also performed relatively well with Brazil when compared with countries such as South Africa, Angola and Ethiopia that are also its major trading partners. For example, between 1995 and 2011, Brazil recorded an average $2.2bn trade deficit with Nigeria (it exported average $0.703m to Nigeria and imported average $2.9bn) and an average trade surplus of $23.9m and $236m with Ethiopia and Angola, respectively. Similarly, South Africa recorded trade deficit of $0.47m with Brazil given that its exports and imports averaged $0.39m and $0.86m, respectively. However, with respect to trade intensity, Brazil had higher intensity with Angola between 1995 and 2011, followed by Nigeria. This means that Nigeria and Brazil will most likely experience higher trade intensity under the new agreements that have been signed. Here, trade intensity is defined as, for example exports from Brazil to Nigeria relative world exports.

The second conclusion that could be drawn from the visit is that it may spur the inflow of foreign direct investment in Nigeria. Currently, the bulk of Brazil’s investments in Africa are concentrated in Angola and South Africa. Given that the Brazilian President showed interest in the power sector, Nigeria may in the near future benefit from the country’s expertise through investments in the sector.  The third potential conclusion that could be drawn from the visit is that individual BRICS may prefer bilateralism as against multilateralism. The fact that Nigeria and Brazil also showed interest in supporting their candidates for international positions is an indication that such agreement may override a support for a ‘BRICS’ candidate by Brazil if the country considers a reciprocal gesture by Nigeria to be more beneficial. It may also call to question the widely held view that South Africa is the ‘gateway’ to Africa.

In conclusion, the visit by Brazil’s president to Nigeria as well as all the agreements reached could suggest that bilateralism is the focal issue. Therefore, it is important for Nigeria to continue to explore areas of interest with the individual BRICS.