The need to increase availability of shipping lanes linking up Brazil and Arab countries in Africa was stressed by Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce secretary-general Tamer Mansour during a webinar on Thursday (28). “Let’s do business” was one of the events held in celebration of May 25, which is Africa Day. The conference was hosted by the Afro-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (Afrochamber), the African Cultural Center and the Embassy of Egypt in Brazil. Speakers included former commercial consul of Egypt to São Paulo Mohamed Elkhatib and WBCG representative Ricardo Laktani.
Opportunities to further explore these lanes include enhancing the partnership with Morocco. “We understand the importance of implementing more and more strategic planning each day. This leads us to two projects which involve Africa. The first one is for Brazilian-Arab shipping lanes. I would like to stress the relevance of Morocco as a strong partner of Brazil’s. Morocco is currently the biggest exporter of phosphates, which are the basis for fertilizers, to the entire world as well as to Brazil. And fertilizers are the basis for the farm products due to which the Arab countries are the second biggest partner of Brazil’s agribusiness industry, trailing only China,” he argued.
Regarding inputs for fertilizer manufacturing, Ricardo Laktani noted that a stronger connection is lacking between Brazil and the African peoples. “There’s a short distance by sea. There’s a need for trade. We’re aware that in the state of Maranhão you have the entire Matopiba area, which needs large amounts of fertilizer,” he said regarding an area which also includes Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, and which could benefit from increased trade via the seaport in Maranhão.
Another important hub in Africa is Egypt, the only Arab nation with a free trade agreement with Mercosur. “We consider some Arab countries as a hub from which to reexport Brazilian products to the world. One of them is Egypt, whose agreement with Mercosur creates opportunities for trade, exploring free zones like the Suez Canal and Alexandria ones,” he said, going on to mention Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as other major African hubs.
Mohamed Elkhatib pointed out that Brazil is geographically located near Africa. “Right now, there is a free trade agreement between 26 African countries. That’s half of Africa. Although Africa does offer individual opportunities, there are much bigger opportunities if we approach it as one single area for trade,” he said.
To that end, another project that the Arab Chamber is working on, and which Mansour mentioned during the webinar, is food security. This is a pillar of trade between Brazil and African Arab countries, and it paves the way for Arab investment in Brazilian agribusiness. “This is the traditional model, and the Chamber curates relevant projects in this regard. And the cherry on the cake would be to attract Arab investment and to use Brazilian technology on the fertile soil of Africa. Africa is excellently located for the reexport of value-added products,” said Mansour, mentioning Brazilian minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina’s tour of countries including Egypt last year as a major step forward.
He also said that the Covid-19 crisis caused the Arab Chamber to condense its 10-year strategic plan into 5 years. Efforts underway from the organization include ABCC Lab, which will encourage innovative projects by startup businesses involving Brazil and the Arab countries.