Brazil Pledges Africa Investment, Approves Broad Affirmative Action Plan

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says the country owes Africa for the exploitation of Africans during slavery. 

Posted: 05/04/2012 02:45 PM EDT

Brazil recently announced plans to make major investments and transfers of technology to countries in Africa in efforts to repay a “solidarity debt” the South American nation says it shares with the continent due to its legacy of slavery.

"Brazil must begin to repay the solidarity debt we have with Africa," former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The country boasts both the world’s largest Black population outside of Nigeria and the world’s eighth largest economy. Lula acknowledged the link between the two statistics when he said Brazil "owes its current strength to the more than 300 years of slavery during which we exploited the sweat and blood of millions of Africans.”

Lula’s comments came during a conference on investment in Africa and echo Brazil’s recent financial interest in the African continent. Brazil's Foreign Trade Board Camex recently granted $2 billion for the oil-booming Southern African nation of Angola to fund a credit line that will help farmers purchase Brazilian agricultural equipment and to support oil-field development.

From the Brazilian perspective, the African continent looks to be a springboard for its burgeoning economic power and influence.

"The [African] continent has been posting robust GDP growth for 10 years, and in 2012, it can grow nearly six percent," Lula said. "The middle class there already totals 300 million people. The number of young people in schools and universities is growing. More than 430 million Africans use cellphones."

In addition to the country’s renewed economic focus on the African continent, Brazil’s Supreme Court recently ruled to maintain a sweeping federal affirmative action program that provides college scholarships to hundreds of thousands of Black and mixed-race students. Last week, in a separate case, the court also ruled that it was constitutional for universities to use racial quotas in determining who is admitted. According to Brazilian census figures from 2009, just 4.7 percent of Black Brazilians over the age of 25 held a university degree, compared to 15 percent of whites.

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(Photo: SERGIO MORAES/Reuters /Landov)

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