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Adama Diarra: “Brazil means a lot to Malian decision-makers”

AFRICA-BRAZIL (4/4). The former director of the National Solidarity Fund of Mali symbolizes all the attachment that some Africans have for Brazil. He explains.

Interview by Tierno Monenembo*

An illustration of African interest in Brazil: Brazilian flags flutter in the alleys of a shopping street in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
© ANDRE DUSEK / Agíncia Estado via AFP

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ATfter having set the historical backdrop for the relationship between Africa and Brazil, given the floor as much to a cultured woman as to a Brazilian elected official who spoke about their attachment to the continent, there is room for an African voice, that of a Sahelian who is now a director of Sésame, an agency whose main objective is to build bridges between people as well as between business spaces. The floor is with Adama Diarra.

The Africa Point: Where does your passion for Brazil come from?

Adama Diarra: It came to me during a videoconference that I organized between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Sikasso region and the Brazilian Embassy in Mali. I was able to appreciate on this occasion the enormous potential of Brazil in the agro-food sector in particular.

I thought that its exceptional know-how in the conservation and processing of tropical products should arouse the interest of Africa. So I took the initiative to lead an economic and commercial mission there of 12 Malian economic operators.

READ ALSOTierno Monénembo – “Africa-Brazil: a missed opportunity! »

You have since become a regular in Brazil…

Yes, several missions followed, the last in September 2022. Beyond business, I developed a real passion for this country close to Africa both in terms of its climate and its population. I am currently preparing our next trade mission to Brazil to visit the largest agribusiness fair in this country. This is the Agrishow, which takes place from 1er to May 5 of this year.

How do you explain that, despite the proximity – geographical, human and historical –, Africa and Brazil do not have more important cultural exchanges than those currently existing?

In my opinion, this situation is mainly due to the language barrier. Africa has, it should be remembered, only four or five Portuguese-speaking countries. Then, it seems to me that there are very few initiatives for rapprochement. This is the fault of politicians but perhaps also of historians, both Brazilian and African. They should talk to each other more and teach us about the painful past that binds us. The third reason, it seems to me, has to do with the lack of air and sea communication links. That said, a simple political will could be enough to revive and energize relations between Brazil and Africa on several grounds.

READ ALSOSouth-South: when Brazil looks towards Africa

The time being for the diversification of partners, when will there be a Brazil-Africa summit in the wake of the already traditional Commonwealth forums, but also of the Africa-France, China-Africa, Russia-Africa, India-Africa type.

I am firmly convinced that a Brazil-Africa summit will take place before the end of President Lula’s mandate. The explanation lies in the latter’s interest in Africa and in the enthusiastic welcome given by African countries to President Lula’s return to power. The opening of many Brazilian diplomatic representations in Africa during the first term of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is a sign that gives hope for the future.

During your various trips, did you feel a real interest in Africa among your Brazilian partners? Moreover, what does Brazil mean for Malian decision-makers?

To answer your question about Brazilians’ interest in Africa, I would say that I really felt it there. This leads me to point out that an Ecowas-Brazil (ECOWAS-Brazil) chamber of commerce has been in place for sixteen years. It is a private non-profit association chaired by an Afro-Brazilian. It works to open the respective markets to companies and institutions interested in carrying out bilateral agreements between Brazil and Africa. It is also partner structures with which we work in Brazil. Another illustrative element of Brazilian interest in Africa is the organization of Brazil’s African Fashion Week in May this year. This cultural event responds to a strong demand from Afro-Brazilians who are working to find an identity and a way of life in synergy with their ancestry. Moreover, many Brazilians we met during our various missions have remained in contact with us, seeking the slightest opportunity to come to Africa or establish partnership relations.

For the second part of your question, I would say that Brazil means a lot to Malian decision makers. I want proof of this in the quality of the cooperation programs between Mali and Brazil in the areas of agriculture, livestock, research in cotton production, and so on. Throughout the year, the government regularly receives cooperation missions. The Prime Minister’s recent trip to Brazil to participate in the inauguration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is both an illustration of this. It consecrates the great interest of Malian decision-makers for Brazil, especially since Mali was the only country in the French-speaking world to have been represented at this ceremony with a high-level delegation.

READ ALSOCidinha da Silva: “Africa is everything to me”

*1986, Grand Prize for Literary Black Africa ex aequo for “The Scales of the Sky”; 2008, Renaudot Prize for “The King of Kahel”; 2012, Erckmann-Chatrian Prize and Grand Prix for the Métis novel for “Le Terroriste noir”; 2013, Palatine Grand Prize and Ahmadou-Kourouma Prize for “The Black Terrorist”; 2017, Grand Prix de la francophonie for all of his work. Tierno Monénembo’s latest publication was published by Editions du Seuil. Its title: “Saharan indigo”

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