Nearly 30 heads of state attended the Second Africa-South America Summit, a Sept. 26-27 meeting of representatives of 61 nations on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, intended to increase trade and economic development cooperation between the two regions. The first summit was held in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, in November 2006. “North-North and North-South summits have been held,” Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolívar, told the Inter Press Service (IPS), “but apart from the Summits of South American-Arab Countries in 2005 and 2009, the Africa-South America meetings are the only South-South summits taking place in the world.”
In addition to a general declaration and various trade agreements between individual countries, the summit included the launching of the Bank of the South with some $20 billion from seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. This is a development bank that South American countries founded in 2007, in part to reduce dependency on international lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez also floated a plan for “Petrosur,” a public multinational company to supply fuel to both regions.
The South American countries with strongest ties to Africa currently are Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Brazil’s trade with Africa, mainly sales of food products and manufactured goods, rose from $5 billion in 2002 to nearly $26 billion in 2008 and represents 7% of the country’s total foreign trade. Brazil has invested more than $4 billion in agriculture in Africa since President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in 2003. Argentina sells more than $3 billion a year to African countries, accounting for 3.5% of its total trade. Venezuela’s trade with Africa is minimal, but the country is making deals with Algerian and South African firms to participate in exploration for gas and crude in Venezuela, while South Africa has invited Venezuela to participate in developing a refinery and fuel storage facilities. (IPS, Sept. 22; Agence France Presse, Sept. 27; BBC,Sept. 27; Prensa Latina, Sept. 28)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 27