2019 is a unique year for strengthening bilateral trade between Brazil and Senegal. Earlier this year, the Brazilian embassy in Dakar decided to reopen its commercial sector, closed for several years. It then decided to set up two annual events to bring together entrepreneurs and investors from both countries.
On the other hand, the embassy has encouraged the Senegalese government to negotiate a cooperation and investment facilitation agreement. “By creating a safe environment for investors, I believe there will be renewed interest in investing in the markets on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Flávio Lima Rocha, Brazil’s ambassador to Senegal and The Gambia.
In an interview for ATLANTICO he talks about the opportunities for Brazilian entrepreneurs in Senegal, the creation of the intracontinental free trade area and also about the importance of Africa to the Brazilian government. “The Brazilian businessman must set aside certain preconceived ideas and evaluate himself and on the spot the conditions for doing business on the African continent,” he says. “Africa remains a priority for Brazil.”
“There is a habitual dialog between both countries at international entities. However, there is still a great deal to define in the economic-commercial plan”.
Trade relations between Brazil and Senegal progressed significantly from 2002 to 2011, when trade exchanges between both countries increased by 822%, from US$ 29.3 million dollars to US$ 240.9 million dollars. What is the bilateral trade relation panorama like nowadays?
Brazil and Senegal maintain friendly and cooperative relations. We have been present in Dakar since the XIX century when Brazil established an embassy in the city. After Senegal got its independence, Brazil promptly opened an embassy in Dakar, one of the first in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the political relationship has progressed satisfactorily, including routine visits from high-level officials. There is a habitual dialog between both countries at international entities. However, there is still a great deal to define in the economic-commercial plan.
On the whole, what are your strategies for strengthening the trade relations between Brazil and Senegal?
The first step was to obtain the reopening of the trade sector at the embassy that had been closed for several years. After it opened in January 2019, the embassy established holding two large-scale business meetings yearly as its goal, named the “Journée Brésilienne de Networking” (Brazilian Networking Day). I am convinced that the lack of knowledge on the economic potential of Brazil and Senegal by operators in both countries is the biggest obstacle nowadays in expanding trade exchanges and the investment flow. The embassy even proposed to the Senegalese, the negotiation of a cooperative agreement and facilitation of investments. That is to create a secure environment for investors, as I believe there will be renewed interest in investments from both coasts of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Brazilian entrepreneur must lay aside certain preconceived ideas and evaluate if he or she and in loco, can meet the requirements for doing business on the African continent. I do not consider that language will be a major problem”.
What business fields or sectors offer more opportunities to Brazilian entrepreneurs?
A quick analysis of the Brazilian product mix for exportation to Senegal has shown in the last few years powerful participation in agribusiness exportation: cracked rice, eggs for incubation, sugar, pepper, roosters, and hens for breeding, and other bovine breeders, among others. Due to the “More International Foodstuffs” program, it was possible to greatly increase the sale of agricultural machinery and equipment. After all, I believe there are countless unexploited opportunities in the sector, such as machinery and equipment in general, building supplies, and wall and floor coverings, transport and cargo vehicles, and engineering and construction services. In my point of view, Senegal must be considered not only as a market for final consumer goods but also as an entrance to a much larger regional market, when considering the efforts of the countries in Western African.
What are the main challenges for the Brazilian entrepreneur to approach the African market?
Lack of knowledge is the main challenge, as it has already become a noteworthy concept that Africa is the new frontier for economic development. The Brazilian entrepreneur must lay aside certain preconceived ideas and evaluate if he or she and in loco, can meet the requirements for doing business on the African continent. I do not consider that language will be a major problem.
“The lack of knowledge on the economic potential of Brazil and Senegal by operators in both countries is the biggest obstacle nowadays in expanding trade exchanges and the investments flow”.
Can you see the creation of the Continental African Free Trade Area based on the perspective of a Brazilian diplomat in Africa? How do you think that area will benefit Brazil?
The establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area will take many years to reap concrete benefits for the African economies. To Brazil to reap complete benefit of its advantages, it must reposition and encourage the Brazilian entrepreneur to also invest in the continent and make their presence known. This is the right timing to do just that!
Brazil has reduced its presence in the past few years. How do you evaluate the Brazilian focus on the continent?
In my point of view, the Brazilian presence has decreased due to its sluggish economy. Africa continues as a priority for Brazil, on account of their political, economic, cultural, and emotional ties. The Government must reevaluate its relations to the continent and place more emphasis on the economic-commercial fronts.