The first part of this study is available here

I. Political projection

  1. Development of bilateral cooperation

Cooperation is a key element of most countries’ diplomacy. It has strongly shaped the rapprochement of Brazil and the DRC in the South-South discourse. South-South cooperation allows countries to coordinate political efforts within decision-making bodies in which each member has an equal vote; it ultimately allows countries to push for agendas that better reflect their common interests. Brazil’s growing presence in Africa cannot be dissociated of the political objective of increasing Brazil’s influence and role as a strategic partner in Africa. In the scope of the Brazil – DRC relations, cooperation has quickly flourished with Brazil seeking to become one of DRC’s pivotal partners in bilateral cooperation. Meanwhile, DRC stands at the receiving end, as an important platform for the promotion of Brazil’s image abroad, due to the possibility of building partnership founded on cross cutting areas of Brazilian expertise.

Since the reopening of the Brazilian embassy in Kinhasa in 2004, several initiatives have been launched or are still under planning in seven key areas of DRC’s development and Brazil’s expertise. In 2011 two agricultural development projects were negotiated between the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and the Congolese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By February 2011, the Federal University of Lavras had held training activities in partnership with the Free University of the Great Lakes Countries on culture, management, harvesting, storage and marketing of Kivu coffee. In 2013, a mission from the University of Lavras trained technicians from various institutions in Kinshasa on agroecology and family farming for subsistence.

The two countries have also engaged in cooperation for education and professional training. Brazil is one of the countries granting the largest number of scholarships for Congolese students through the programme PEC-G – an initiative allowing youths from the DRC to study in Brazilian universities. DRC is the fourth largest beneficiary of the PEC-G programme, having also benefitted from the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Brazilian Rio Branco Institute (IRBr) and DRC’s Diplomatic Academy, in 2011. This joint initiative for training diplomats in both countries took off in 2012 when the first Congolese diplomat enrolled at Rio Branco Institute in school year 2012-2013. In 2012, an employee of DRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also participated in the III Course for African Diplomats in Brasília. As of yet, no Brazilian diplomat was sent for training in Kinshasa.

Both countries share similar tropical climate, vast territories covered by the world’s largest tropical forests and abundant natural resources, elements that require investments in environmental monitoring. For that purpose, the two countries are working to enhance technical and institutional cooperation through a partnership between the Brazilian Government, the United Nations the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Commission of Central African Forests (COMICAF). Once implemented, the project, with resources of US $ 38 million from the Amazon Fund, will be the largest Brazilian initiative at FAO in the benefit of third countries. DRC is one of the project’s main beneficiaries in the domain of monitoring, prevention and deforestation control of the Congo Basin.

Finally, a milestone in the DRC-Brazil cooperation is the Brazilian embassy’s initiative to use Capoeira – an African-Brazilian cultural expression that mixes fighting, dancing and music – in a varied set of social inclusion activities. Capoeira programs have quickly gained international notoriety and one of them was recently included in Ban Ki Moon’s itinerary when visiting the DRC in February 2016. The initiative promotes youth’s development through Capoeira, an element of Brazilian culture originating from Central Africa, when the Congo was a key supplier of Brazil’s slave workforce.

Capoeira became more than a historical and cultural link between the two countries, evolving into a fast-growing project in coordination with UN Agencies and financed by other countries. In Kinshasa, the local association Abada Capoeira Congo has promoted Capoeira since 2007, training vulnerable children and young people in the communities of Limete, Ngiri-Ngiri, Bandal, and Kasa-Vubu. In 2015, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) signed a cooperation protocol with Abada Capoeira Congo increasing access to the programme by institutions associated with UNFPA. It has also financed investments in infrastructure and the training of local capoeira educators.

In 2014, the embassy of Brazil in Kinshasa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the non-governmental organization AMADE-Mondiale developed a joint program named ‘Capoeira for Peace’, which introduced Capoeira as a multidisciplinary activity in child soldiers’ rehabilitation program when being demobilised from armed forces in the East Congo. Activities were developed in partnership with multiple non-governmental organisations associated with UNICEF. Capoeira for Peace later influenced a new partnership between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Brazilian embassy in Kinshasa developing a Capoeira project in the Molé refugee camp in Equator Province. Locally trained instructors from Abada Capoeira Congo oversee capoeira within a blossoming project that now aims to expand to Libengue and Inke refugee camps, also in Equator Province, housing 40,000 refugees from the Central African Republic.[1]

Brazil had also cooperated in the humanitarian field. In 2010, Brazil donated US $ 1 million to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for a project entitled, ‘Access to justice and reparations for victims of sexual violence in the DRC’. Regarding food security, in 2012, Brazil donated 7000 tons of rice to the DRC through the World Food Programme. The Brazilian embassy’s efforts to engage in humanitarian and social activities evidence the country’s willingness to contribute towards development and peacebuilding through reinforcement of ties with the DRC. The diplomatic discourse often emphasises characteristics that place Brazil in a distinct position as a former Portuguese colony, which grew into a major world economy, seeking to tackle social inequalities while sharing technology and expertise with African counterparts.

Cooperation is certainly one of the strongholds of the Brazilian diplomacy in Kinshasa; it has successfully built on the discourse of the similarities between the two countries to promote bilateral and trilateral engagement in various areas of Brazilian expertise. In addition, initiatives in the field of humanitarian aid, food security and in environmental cooperation are capable of granting Brazil a prominent position in multilateral bodies.

2. Brazil’s engagement with MONUSCO

DRC is the stage of the world’s largest and longest-lasting UN peacekeeping operation, former MONUC and current MONUSCO.[2] Apart from the numbers, MONUSCO also stands out as the first peacekeeping operation with a mandate for a special Force Intervention Brigade (SC Res.2098). The Brigade is authorized to carry out targeted offensive operations to neutralise armed groups that threaten State authority and civilians’ security; it consists of three infantry battalions, one artillery, one special force and reconnaissance company that operated for two years under the direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz.

Gen. Santos Cruz is a Brazilian military with a distinguished career of over 40 years in national and international missions. When nominated to take over MONUSCO in 2013, he was Special Advisor to the Secretariat on Strategic Affairs of the Presidency and had previous experience as Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 2007 to 2009. General Santos Cruz indication to be Force Commander came from within the UN and was welcomed by Brazil, who is not a troop contributor for MONUSCO. Yet, Santos Cruz achievements as head of the operation granted him important status within UN peacekeeping and is being celebrated by the Brazilian diplomacy in an attempt to maximize the country’s contributions to peacekeeping and reaffirm its commitment to DRC’s peace process.

Due to Santos Cruz’s performance in Goma, the city was also included in the itinerary of Brazil’s former Minister of International Affairs, Chancellor Mauro Viera’s, 2015 visit to the DRC. While in Goma, the Chancellor attended a working meeting with Santos Cruz and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Martin Kobler, where he was briefed on the status of MONUSCO’s engagement.

When in Kinshasa, the Chancellor met with his counterpart, the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs Raymond Tshibanda and President Joseph Kabila. Among the several agenda issues discussed during the official visit, new opportunities for cooperation, the strengthening of bilateral relations, Kabila’s possible visit to Brazil to discuss Inga and the reform in the UNSC were particularly relevant. Evolution of bilateral cooperation demonstrates that Brazil has engaged in sectors strategic to DRC’s development, such as social inclusion, the environment and peacekeeping. Becoming a pivotal partner to the region would benefit Brazil’s call for Security Council Reform, in the General Assembly. In 2004, Brazil joined Germany, India and Japan to establish the G4 and advocate for a Security Council reform, expanding the number of its permanent and non-permanent members. Granting developing countries both permanent and non-permanent seats in the Council would better reflect geopolitical realities of today.

  1. The human dimension of Brazil/DRC relation: Brazilian preachers and Congolese asylum seekers

 As of today, the Brazilian community in the DRC counts about 120 individuals, and religious workers represent a large share of Brazilians in the country. Missionaries in particular, represent the majority of Brazilians that enter the country for short periods of time. Brazilian religious workers living in the DRC belong to a variety of religions, working not only in Kinshasa but also Lubumbashi, Goma and various rural areas. The two most active Brazilian churches in the country are the “God is Love”, present in DRC for over ten years, and the “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God”, active for two years until its preacher fled after public statements in favor of vasectomy, an illegal practice in the DRC. Despite the broad range of activities in which Brazilian missionaries are engaged, their presence and expression are limited if compared to other countries in Africa or Brazil. In Brazil, the evangelicals represent the fastest growing religion in the country: according to data released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the number of evangelicals in Brazil increased by 61.45% from 2001 to 2011[3].

The DRC is the new frontier for the Brazilian fast growing Pentecostal churches. For instance, the Brazilian and Evangelic Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has an impressive footprint in the continent, with over 190 churches in Angola, 324 in South Africa, and it is present in smaller numbers in most Sub-Saharan countries[4]; the church has also inaugurated its first temple in the Masai village of the Kadjiado region in 2015.[5] Moreover, its leaders have recently met head of states from South Africa (2014)[6], Cape Verde (2015)[7], Mozambique (2015)[8] and Namibia (2016)[9] to discuss politics and the Church’s social work. However, even for the Brazilian Evangelical churches, the DRC is a tough environment: religious competition is harsh between the many local and foreign Pentecostal movements.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Congolese community in Brazil currently stands out in the number of refugees. According to Brazil’s National Committee for Refugees (CONARE) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Brazil’s fourth largest community of refugees is from DRC. By 2016, a total of 968 Congolese refugees had made their way to Brazil, a community that is only smaller than the Syrian (2298), Angolan (1420) and the Colombian (1100)[10]. Brazilian embassy’s research on the profile of Congolese asylum seekers in Brazil indicates that most refugees are middle class citizens that entered the country with a tourist or short-term business visas and never returned. According to diplomatic sources, the embassy has strengthened its efforts to verify in the best possible way that applicants have real intentions to return to the DRC when their visa expires.

Conclusion: Challenges on both sides of the Atlantic

 After a promising rise, the Brazil-DRC relation is now challenged by domestic and international developments.

The first years of president Dilma Rousseff in office indicated that the South-South cooperation would remain a priority for the Brazilian diplomacy. However, by her second term momentum seemed to be of the past due to severe economic and political crises. Brazil’s DGP fell from 2.6 trillion in Rousseff’s first year in office to 1.77 trillion by the end of 2015[11], its worst mark during the last twenty five years according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. As a result, Brazil is facing major difficulties in sustaining its engagements abroad. The Brazilian economic crisis led to severe government spending cuts, which consequently affected Brazil’s investments in cooperation.

Brazil’s economic crisis also affects political decisions that determine Brazilian companies’ access to promising markets in DRC. The DRC holds a debt of US $ 4.76 million with the Brazilian government, stemming from the 1970’s, when 30,000 boxes of corned beef boxes were exported to the Zaire, totaling US $ 0.5 million at the time[12]. This small debt represents a major barrier for Brazilian companies that want to expand their operations in the DRC, since the Brazilian National Bank for Development (BNDS in Portuguese) cannot finance the internationalisation of companies to countries indebted to the Brazilian Government. The DRC’s debt is relatively small as compared to the debts already renegotiated with the Republic of the Congo (US $ 350 million), Tanzania (US $ 237 million) and Zambia (US $ 113 million). Nevertheless, the media buzz that followed accused the Brazilian government of financing dictatorships with funds from taxpayers, only benefitting mining and construction companies investing in Africa[13]. Therefore, it appears in the medium term, highly unlikely that DRC’s debt to Brazil will feature on the Brazilian Senate’s agenda.  Yet, it would not make sense that domestic political actors make decisions that will ultimately push DRC’s huge economic potential out of the reach of Brazilian companies, and diplomatic sources believe that an agreement will be inevitable on the long run.

Nonetheless, the economic crisis and president Rousseff’s mismanagement led to a major political crisis in Brazil. Indeed, corruption scandals have involved major Brazilian companies and led to a new interim government following President Roussef’s  impeachment. The Lava Jato criminal investigation has unfolded the corrupt business around Petrobras during Lula’s government and beyond that, the investigations have put to trial major executives from Brazil’s largest companies as well as top-level politicians. Heads of Brazil’s largest construction companies with strong presence in Africa, such as Léo Pinheiro (Head of OAS), Otavio de Azevedo (Head of Andrade Gutierez) and Marcelo Odebrecht (Head of Odebrecht) are imprisoned on charges of corruption. For that reason, beyond the impossibility of assuring funds to invest in the DRC from BNDS, companies have already much to deal with corruption scandals and falling stock prices. As a consequence, expansion plans are put on hold.

The future does not look bright for the cooperation in other areas either. Political crisis has escalated to unprecedented levels, leading to president Rousseff impeachment. Brazil’s new president, Michel Temer, took interim office as backed by an all-male, conspicuously white cabinet, promising to restore confidence in Latin America’s largest economy. Budgetary constraints have gained centrality in the new Government’s agenda; one of Brazil’s largest newspapers recently revealed that Brazil’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Serra, commissioned an internal study to analyze the cost effectiveness of the diplomatic posts opened during Lula’s government[14]. This could eventually lead to the closure of some of them.

Officially however, Itamaray’s ten new guidelines for Brazil’s foreign policy prioritise partnerships with new players in Africa and Asia, even if this may follow a different approach. Serra stated in a public announcement that “Contrarily to what is commonly spread, modern Africa does not ask for compassion, it expects effective economic and technological exchange as well as investments. In this sense, the narrow and pragmatic solidarity with countries of the South will continue to be an essential guideline of the Brazilian diplomacy. This is the proper South-South strategy, and not what once employed with advertising purposes, limited economic benefits and overburdened diplomatic investments”[15]. Serra’s statement seems to confirm the past years’ trend of budget cuts, ultimately leading to weakening bilateral cooperation. Yet, sources at Itamaraty’s African Division in Brasília say that is too soon to interpret Serra’s discourse as a cooling down of cooperation.

Brazil’s ambitions may also be imperiled by DRC’s domestic challenges: economic slowdown and electoral crisis could combine and lead to a new period of instability. The drop of commodities price in the international market is impacting the economic foundation of the regime (the mining sector) and reducing its financial capacity. With a 22% budget cut in 2016[16], the Inga hydropower project on hold, the decline of copper production[17] and an electoral crisis in the making, the future looks very uncertain in the DRC.[18] Kabila’s visit to Brazil to discuss Inga seems more unlikely than ever and private investors are on a wait-and-see mode. Yet, it remains to be seen whether the on-going crisis in DRC and Brazil will definitely compromise the deepening cooperation and increasing trade between the two countries or will just slow down an inevitable trend.

Thierry Vircoulon & Carolina Fantini


[1] « En RDC, la capoeira rapproche chrétiens et musulmans centrafricains », La Croix, 5 septembre 2016.

[2] « Reflections on 17 years of UN presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo », Marc-André Lagrange, Thierry Vircoulon, IFRI, April 2016.

[3] G1 Newspaper (29/06/2012) “The number of evangelicals increased 61% in 10 years, according to IBGE”. Available at: (Accessed: 1 August 2016).

[4] The complete list of churches per country can be found trough the searching engine at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’s official webpage. Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2016).

[5] Universal Church of the Kingdom of God Website (11/04/2015) “Universal Church inaugurates church in an African tribe that does not accept foreigners”. Available online at: (Accessed: 28 June 2016).

[6] Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (11/05/2014) “President of South Africa honors the work of Universal”. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2016).

[7] Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (23/07/2015) “President of Cape Verde dialogue with Universal”. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2016).

[8] Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (06/09/2015) “Mozambique’s Head of State visits Universal”. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2016).

[9] Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (12/05/2016) “Namibian President asked Universal for special meeting”. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2016).

[10] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2016) “Dados sobre o Refúgio no Brasil”. Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2016).

[11]World Bank Data – DGP per Country. Available at: (Accessed 2 August 2016).

[12]Economic Affairs Committee – Brazilian Senate (2013) “Report N.205”. Available at: (Accessed: 27 July 2016).

[13] O Globo (8/4/2013) “Com anistia, Brasil beneficia países acusados de currupção”. Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2016).

[14] Folha de São Paulo (17/05/2016). “Serra pede estudo de custo de embaixadas na África e no Caribe”. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2016).

[15] Itamaraty (2016). “Discurso do ministro José Serra por ocasião da cerimônia de transmissão do cargo de ministro de estado das Relações Exteriores – Brasília, 18 de maio de 2016”. Available at: (Accessed 16 July 2016).

[16] The Africa Report (2016). “DRC proposes slashing 2016 budget by 22%” Available at: (Accessed 16 July 2016).

[17] « Congo copper outputs fall 14 pct in H1 on lower prices », Reuters, 16 August 2016.

[18] « La nouvelle opposition en RDC : les mouvements citoyens de la jeunesse », Habibou Bangre, IFRI, May 2016.