The Blending of Private and Public Interests: Brazil and Vale in Mozambique

Dr. Mathias Alencastro
Dr. Danilo Marcondes de Souza Neto

This paper seeks to understand the role of the private sector in shaping the foreign policy of Brazil in Mozambique in the first decades of the 21st century. While conventional wisdom underlines the role of ideology in Brazil’s drive to Africa, drawing on original archival sources and interviews, this paper argues that, in fact, the Brazilian private sector played a key role in the process.

The paper looks at the case of the Brazilian mining tycoon Vale. Seeking to expand its global market, the company saw in the coal mine deposits in western Mozambique a priority in the 1990s. In order to compete with other emerging powers, Vale relied on the Brazilian government, which successfully portrayed itself as an alternative to other emerging powers deemed as more predatory. A number of different social and environmental challenges associated with the high-risk investment meant that Vale faced a myriad of problems in Mozambique, and the Brazilian government was dragged into constant controversies. Ultimately, state-private sector blending contributed to the decline of Brazil’s engagement in Africa, even more so than political and economic shifts.