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Brazil, India Pursue Trade in West Africa

Leaders from India and Brazil are concluding visits to West Africa. Analysts say growing wealth in these countries, combined with West Africa's resources, can lead to new strategic alliances among developing countries. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

On his seventh trip to the continent, Brazil President Inacio Lula da Silva visited Burkina Faso and Republic of Congo, to advocate biofuels, created from agricultural crops.

During the oil crisis of the 1970's, Brazil's state-run and subsidized alcohol-fuel program was set up to reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern petroleum. It is now the world's largest exporter of ethanol and its second-biggest producer, after the United States.

Shared energy problems have increased alliances between West Africa and Brazil and, another biofuel producer, India. Both countries are helping produce biofuels in Senegal.

Analyst Tom Cargill, with London-based Chatham House, says China, Russia, India and Brazil have growing economies that have increased their abilities to invest in other developing countries.

Cargill says another incentive for non-industrialized countries to invest in Africa is to garner influence with the U.N. Security Council. He points out India's first prime-minister visit to Nigeria in more than four decades has led to new political cooperation agreements.

"There is a political dynamic in terms of wanting to encourage a sense of support and solidarity both in the Security Council and broader geopolitical interests," he said. "Trying to shore up its [India's] support across the continent. There is a range of interests."

India and Africa have both bid for permanent seats on an expanded U.N. Security Council.

Cargill adds Iran has increased investments in West Africa to cultivate political support against threatened U.N. sanctions because of its nuclear development program. Iran recently agreed to supply Senegal oil for one year and is expected to open a car manufacturing plant there.

Chinese textiles and clothing firms have invested heavily in Africa to get around U.S. and E.U. limits on Chinese exports. Earlier this year, China paid more than $2 billion for almost half ownership in a Nigerian oil field.

But analyst Cargill says continued interest in West Africa is dependent on a strong world economy, which may not last.

"It is just the beginning," he noted. "It is still fertile. And I think connected to more global economic growth. If there is a reverse in that, we might see this investment slip away again.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazil's president are continuing to South Africa where they are expected to attend the Brazil, South Africa and India Summit, initiated by Brazil two years ago in an effort to improve trade with industrialized countries.