By: Luisa Massarani and David Dickson


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Brazil and South Africa have signed a wide-ranging agreement that is likely to lead to closer collaboration between the two countries in science and technology.

It was one of a number of such agreements signed by Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio (Lula) da Silva during a week-long trip to sub-Saharan Africa earlier this month. The agreement with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was signed on the final day of Lula’s visit to South Africa.

The two presidents also agreed to increase cooperation between researchers on measures to combat various health challenges confronting their two countries, including HIV/AIDS, waterborne diseases, malaria and dengue.

Lula also agreed collaborative science and technology projects with Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, and Mozambique. Roberto Amaral, Brazil’s minister of Science and Technology, who accompanied Lula on his trip, said that each agreement would benefit all the countries involved.

"The trip was very positive. It is not a victory for Brazil, nor a question of ‘cherry picking’ the most attractive possibilities for cooperation,” the minister told the news agency AFP. “The programmes are of interest to all the countries”.

A particular focus of the agreements has been the desire of Brazil – which has the largest number of citizens of African descent outside Africa – to find ways to help boost the training of scientists in countries that share the Portuguese language.

Brazil’s Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CNPq), for example, will provide support for undergraduate students in São Tomé and Príncipe, and for graduate students in Angola and Mozambique. Measures to enable staff from Brazilian universities to teach postgraduate courses in these countries will also be put in place.

During Lula’s visit to South Africa, he expressed his support for the creation of an India/Brazil/South Africa Forum, known as the IBSA Trilateral Commission, which was set up in June 2003.

IBSA is expected to play an important role in promoting cooperation between the three countries through joint projects designed to combat hunger and address challenges relating to education, health and sanitation. These goals were described in the so-called Brasilia Declaration issued at the launch of the forum.

A related aim of the commission is to seek ways of enhancing science and technology in the three countries. Discussions on how this should be done are being held prior to IBSA's next meeting, which will take place in India in March 2004.