Brazil and Burkina Faso need to strengthen their relationship


PhD Candidate in Public Law at University of Lagos

In a world where closer ties between regional blocs are increasingly a factor of cooperation, Africa and South America are trying to give a new dimension to their diplomatic and economic relations. Beyond their "common" historical and cultural links, the two regions try to show that South-South Cooperation (SSC) could be an important lever for their development. In Africa, the existence of SSC frameworks is not a new fact. However, they have grown due to the increasing influence in the global economy of countries such as China, India and even Brazil. Focussing on Brazil, its partnership is more oriented towards technology and knowledge transfer with most African countries. It conducts cooperations based on the priorities expressed by partner countries (technical area and scientific research).


Burkina Faso (former Haute Volta) and the Federative Republic of Brazil diplomatic relations date back to 1975. However, it is during the last two decades that their cooperation has really taken off. Regarding the bilateral trade, in 2014, Burkina Faso’s export to Brazil mainly concerned Cotton, Iron or Steel Works. With regard to Brazil, in 2014, its top 5 products exported to Burkina were Mechanical machines, Electric machines, Tanning and dye extracts, Meat and Tools2. Burkina and Brazil have the same key economic sectors, yet, Brazil has been able to develop them quite remarkably compared to Burkina Faso. For example, in the agricultural sector, despite often adverse weather conditions, Brazil exports many goods and services (coffee, cocoa and cotton etc.). In the health sector, it has pharmaceutical industries and extensive experience in the fight against AIDS. As for Burkina Faso, several cotton processing factories have been established in the country during these couple of years. Given their potentialities, the two countries sought to share knowledge and experiences. Burkina Faso benefited from this collaboration in many areas such as the agricultural sector (it has adopted Brazilian techniques in soil fertilisation, agricultural mechanisation, village irrigation, etc). Beyond the agricultural sector, other areas of cooperation also concern the health and breeding sectors.


These moult cooperations between Burkina and Brazil were materialised through the signature of many legal instruments. Data provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso shows that agreements involving the Ministry and Brazil are between ten and twenty (sometimes agreements are concluded but do not involve the Ministry). In fact, data are scattered through many ministries and institutions. Here is a non-exhaustive example of agreements concluded: In 2003, during the official visit of the President of Burkina Faso in Brazil, a Protocol of Intent was signed on the provision of ARVs to Burkina by Brazil. In 2005, Brazil and Burkina Faso signed a cooperation agreement broadening their collaboration scope (following this agreement, meetings were held between experts in various fields in the spirit of South-South cooperation). In 2007, during the visit of President Luiz Inãcio Lula da Silva in Ouagadougou, seven Memorandums of Understanding were signed (production of sugar cane, cotton production, soybean production, animal husbandry, health, sport). In 2009, in order to better regulate this cooperation, the two countries signed two new agreements: a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a Joint Committee for Economic, Technical, Cultural, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation; and a Visa Exemption Agreement for holders of diplomatic, official or service passports. Regarding the financial aspect, most of these projects supported by Brazil are executed through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), or EMBRAPA (in 2010, a project worth US$451,514.00 was under negotiation between Brazil and Burkina Faso. The objective was to strengthen dairying in Burkina Faso).


Burkina Faso and Brazil have converging points of view: lean more on SSC to lift countries’ economies, improve population living standards (through training, sharing of experiences and expertise), and become competitive in the international market. For these reasons, they often have consultations with a view of mutual support for applications for international positions. It is not surprising to see Brazil supporting the sub-regional coalition G4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad) to fight against obstacles to international trade, including subsidies for cotton production. Unfortunately, it is noted that the relationship between Brazil and Burkina Faso is declining for a couple of years. From the data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, the last agreement was concluded in 2012; and despite the setting up of a Joint Committee for Economic, Technical, Cultural, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation in 2009, nothing seems to change. Worse, the Joint Committee is facing challenges such as holding meetings.


Burkina Faso and Brazil need to revitalise their relationship. Bilateral trade, exchange of knowledge and practice could benefit the two countries. In the process, it is essential to reinvigorate the Joint Committee because it can serve as a channel to that purpose. Brazil is a long-date partner of Burkina. Indeed, the country has been using Brazilian aircraft for decades. Its fleet comprises 5 aircraft of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer (2 Embraers 170, 1 Embraer 175 and 2 Embraers 195). However, only 2 are operational and serve domestically and internationally. Given that, on October 20, 2020, the country signed an agreement to transfer Air Burkina to the American company African Global Development (AGD). Through this agreement (which is a privatisation), AGD commits to supply the country with Airbus aircraft, including A 220, A300 and A 350. It is unfortunate that Brazil and Burkina Faso did not revitalise the aeronautics sector for mutual benefices (which in the present case benefits Europe). Fortunately, many other sectors exist where Burkina and Brazil could develop very interesting partnerships. For example, the “Fashion and Beauty” sector is sometimes overshadowed. However, it is an area that generates a colossal figure. For instance, in Burkina Faso, Brazilian wicks are sought after and valued by women (many are ready to spend a fortune on them). Other areas that interesting partnership could be developed concern herbal medicine/Traditional medicine and census activities.

Concerning the census activities, in 2012, thanks to a SSC initiative between Senegal and Brazil, Senegal benefited from Brazil expertise about the utilisation of the Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to conduct its general census. Brazil promised to lend around 20,200 PDAs to Senegal2. We believe that this kind of cooperation could be extended and duplicated to Burkina Faso. In fact, in 2019-2020, Burkina Faso carried out its 5th general census in its history. For data collection purposes, significant equipment was acquired (21,049 smartphones, 198 tablets, 3246 power banks and 4 computer servers, etc.). All this equipment mobilised millions of Cfa francs, and despite this, many difficulties were encountered. The PDAs of Brazil might help to fill some of these gaps.

“Burkina Faso is a land of hospitality and opportunities”. A country that needs more expertise to produce Biodiesel from Jatropha seeds and cotton seeds, efficiently manage waste production, curb deforestation, etc. As Brazil is a “Nation with African culture”, it might learn from Burkina Faso through projects adapted to the country's reality and might apply to the Brazilian context. Burkina-Brazil cooperation had been fruitful in the years 2000-2010; a revival is necessary because strengthening their bilateral relationship might facilitate their endeavour to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the development goals set out in Agenda 2063.