In Latin America, Africa is perceived through different images: some of them are clear but others are fuzzy. Among the first, Africa is watched as a big safari, a land of wonders and adventures waiting to be discovered. Among the blurred, pictures of a modern Africa with a new active role in the international system are posted everywhere. Therefore, as Latin-Americans we need new lenses to understand the African renaissance.
Africa and Latin America have common historical roots and strong social bonds that remain vivid in the culture. In music, for example, we can feel the African heritage in tango, rumba and salsa. Every day we see our African ancestry in the faces of our afrodescendents and we also see new faces as long as the African diaspora is spreading. However, we usually forget some similarities in the stages of development that have shared our regions in the XX Century. The processes of democratization, the application of the structural adjustment programmes and the asymmetrical relationships with countries of the North are elements that usually escape from our considerations regarding the relations between Latin America and Africa. We have more situations in common that we could realize at first sight due to the lack of knowledge of each other because of the predominance of North – South relations together with an Eurocentric perspective.
The first decade of the XXI Century has also brought similar opportunities for both regions. The boom of the prices of raw materials and the interests of China, India and Brazil in the continent have contributed to the economic growing of most of African countries, but development is still a pending account. In this second decade and in a context of a world economic retraction, it is more clear the fragility of economies with a high dependence on raw materials when it occurs a fall in commodity prices like the one of 2014. Since then, enthusiasm over the continent’s economic prospects has been tempered. Furthermore, the different countries are facing essential challenges, such as the dislocations produced by rapid social changes, domestic crises, and the broken promises of recovering democracies that are jeopardized by corruption. Economic growth is not enough to improve the quality of life of the majority of the population, and even less if it is not based on structural changes.
In this scenario, the idea of South-South cooperation has appeared again with new strength and dimensions and it seems to be a useful tool to make progress in functional cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, science and technology. Together with economic issues, important themes that have historically been present in development discussions, such as conflict resolution, international migrations and environmental care. are now seen through new lenses so as to find better solutions
An alternative is to take advantage of all the opportunities in the sphere of bilateral and multilateral relations, and gradually build a community of like-minded countries, through a critical dialogue and better mutual understanding. The commitment of our governments is essential, but also it is important to recognize the increasingly significant role that our civil societies –NGO, business, academia-, are playing.
The present international scenario does not offer any certainties and is increasingly unstable. However, Latin America and Africa should advance in the search for possible options to extend the negotiating ability of public and private actors, as there is nothing worse than inaction. Although such a proposal may seem idealistic vis-à-vis our countries schizophrenic external agendas and our shortage of human and material resources, we have the possibility of promoting and widening and effective South-South cooperation.
South-South cooperation must be constructed systematically, through specific issue-areas and with precise objectives. We cannot afford to miss a new opportunity. Latina America and Africa should be precise in what they need and what they want, and therefore discuss possible agendas of their own, to begin building common agendas. From our different roles we must propose the generation of a new, endogenous and decolonized view that allows us to rethink the connections between South America and Africa and to see joint paths starting from the South.
Phd. Gladys Lechini
Facultad de Ciencia Política y Relaciones Internacionales
Universidad Nacional de Rosario – CONICET