Venezuela backs unity with Africa against imperialism

Leaders of the developing world made renewed calls for greater solidarity and opposition to Western imperialism at the third Africa-South America Summit (ASA), despite some criticism of the role of Brazil in Africa.

Over February 20-23, 66 African and South American countries took part in the Summit, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

In an open letter read by Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced Western intervention in Libya and Mali, and urged the building of a “true pole of power” in the global South.

“It’s not by luck or chance … [that] since the [previous ASA] the African continent has been the victim of multiple interventions and attacks by Western powers,” wrote Chavez.

He said, “all interventionist activity by NATO” in Africa furthers a neocolonial agenda to divide the global South and subject developing nations to “relationship[s] of enslaved dependence” to the West.

The socialist president also urged for “an authentic and permanent link” between nations of the two continents, emphasising the need for mutually beneficial sustainable development.

Specifically, Chavez asked African states to further engage with Latin American initiatives to promote regional integration, such as Petrosur, the Bank of the South and the University of the Peoples of the South.

These three initiatives are aimed at developing South-South cooperation. Petrosur aimsto facilitate more efficient and equitable hydrocarbon trade. The Bank of the South is intended to provide capital for social programs and infrastructure, and the University of the Peoples of the South provides free tertiary education to selected students from developing nations.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino also said the limited cooperation between Africa and South America was the legacy of European colonialism, but “there’s so much we can offer each other, and not only in terms of commerce”.

One of the few South American heads of state to attend the ASA was Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who told the Summit: “The developing world is evolving and becoming an important part of the global economy. Most of the developing countries are part of ASA, which is going through economic transformation at breathtaking speed.”

Rousseff also criticised the role of the West, and organisations such as the United Nations and international financial institutions. She described the current lack of representation of any African or South American states on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as “not sustainable”.

“A reform of the UN is urgent,” she said. “A reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is also urgent to ensure that they work more in sync with the needs of the developing countries.”

Since the first ASA in 2006, trade between Africa and South America has risen by over 75%. US$26 billion of trade is between African states and Brazil, accounting for over 70% of the total value of trade between the two continents.

However, one of Brazil’s largest investments in Africa has been sugar cane plantations to produce ethanol biofuel, a practice that has been criticised by environmental groups.

Friends of the Earth biofuels expert Adrian Bebb told Bloomberg in 2010 that, “[i]n a [developing] country that suffers persistent hunger, using millions of hectares of agricultural land to grow crops to power European cars is immoral and perverse”.

Critics say the expansion of the biofuel industry in Africa is likely to exacerbate hunger.

Timothy Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School told the NY Times that competition between using arable land for biofuels or food production is inevitable.

Chavez has previously criticised the biofuel industry for using food that could feed the hungry to produce energy. Chavez's letter discussed the importance of responsible environmental resource management, but made no mention of the Brazilian investment in ethanol.