After disbursing agricultural implements worth US$38 million under a US$98 million loan facility which Brazil extended to Zimbabwe in 2015 through the More Food For Africa programme, the South American powerhouse is yet to roll out the second phase of the project with US$60 million worth of equipment yet to be released. Zimbabwe Independent business reporter Tinashe Kairiza (TK) spoke to the Brazilian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ana Maria Pinto Morales (AM, pictured), on the More Food for Africa programme and the delays surrounding the disbursement of the outstanding implements worth US$60 million. Find below excerpts of the interview:
TK: Brazil rolled out the More Food for Africa programme in 2015 with Zimbabwe earmarked to receive implements worth US$98 million. Give a brief overview of the programme.
AM: The More Food for Africa programme is at the centre of Brazil’s policy to equip poor families with agriculture implements and technological support. Brazil and Africa have common problems. So the main intention of the programme was to supply family-based farmers with equipment. So the government decided to offer to other African countries with equipment. The programme’s thrust is to give them a means to obtain self-sufficiency. This is something that is happening in Brazil, so we wanted to replicate the same in Africa and in Zimbabwe.
TK: During the first phase of the programme in 2015, you disbursed implements worth US$38 million to Zimbabwe; do you think the implements distributed were put to good use?
AM: It has been successful, my predecessor visited some of the beneficiaries and she was touched. This is not a donation; it is a loan facility to Zimbabwe. We have provided implements worth US$38 million and the total amount is US$98 million. The success is very high. Agribank is paying the interest every month.
TK: After the first phase of the programme, you undertook an assessment of the programme. What were some of the major findings of that assessment?
AM: The findings were very positive. The assessment shows that everything was done in the context of our bilateral agreement.
TK: The programme is meant to equip poor and vulnerable families with equipment, but there is a general feeling that most of the beneficiaries of the programme are top government officials. Did this come up in your assessment?
AM: We have no evidence of that. All our assessments have been positive. We do not have any kind of information on that. There is no evidence on the misuse of the facility.
TK: Agribank is handling the repayment side of the arrangement. Can you briefly describe the repayment patterns?
AM: Yes, I was informed by authorities at the Foreign Affairs ministry that the loan is being repaid, the interest is being repaid.
TK: Brazil is yet to disburse the outstanding implements worth US$60 million. When is Brazil going to implement the second phase of the programme?
AM: That is a very good question. We had a meeting in Brazil on disbursing the second tranche of the programme. We still have a priority in Zimbabwe. Brazil has some economic constraints. So this is a question of time. We need to re-examine how we can continue to implement the second phase of the programme.
TK: Are there any timelines as to when Brazil will roll out the second phase in light of the economic constraints you are facing at home?
AM: I cannot give any details on that. I will tell you when I have the details. I cannot give any timelines at this stage. We are not facing any impossibility to do it.We need time to re-examine the best way to do it.
TK: You are implementing the same programme in other African countries, can you briefly describe the repayment patterns in those countries?
AM: I am not aware about the stage of implementation in other countries which include Senegal, Ghana and Mozambique. We do not have any information on this.
TK: This is a loan arrangement, and obviously Brazil is also looking for a return. Would you say this has been a worthwhile investment by the government of Brazil?
AM: Definitely, we only work on demand for implements. Brazil is not a donor country. We work on demand from governments. We only work with proposals received from governments. The idea is not to donate, but to transform.
The idea of the loan is that the beneficiaries pay back. It is something well-conceived, the beneficiaries have to produce and pay back.
TK: The More Food for Africa programme came at a time when Zimbabwe was looking for more investment towards the agriculture sector, is the government of Zimbabwe not pushing you to release the outstanding equipment?
AM: It is a question of re-examining the best way to proceed. It was examined in Brazil and we are waiting for the final decision to continue. It is an examination, it involves suppliers. The only thing I cannot tell you is when it is going to happen. It takes some time for us to organise the second phase. It’s a question of time. Brazil is re-assessing its economic situation. The Brazilian economy will give us the green light to continue.
TK: Can you describe the nature of the problems you are facing at home?
AM: I do not prefer to talk about Brazil’s affairs, but it is the common problems any developing country is facing. We have a fiscal deficit. We are starting to recover. So the prospects are positive.
TK: We have spoken about the More Food for Africa programme extensively; let’s talk about Zimbabwe as an investment destination. Do Brazilian investors perceive Zimbabwe as an exciting investment destination in light of its investment laws?
AM: Definitely, we have some investors who have shown interest and who are studying Zimbabwe. The future is incredible. We see opportunities. We are waiting for proposal from the government of Zimbabwe. There are some constraints of course in Zimbabwe, but as soon as they are resolved the Brazilian companies will come. This country is very rich. I hope in my time here I will see Brazilian companies coming, especially to invest in the infrastructure sector and not only in agriculture.
TK: Currently, trade between the two countries is skewed in favour of Brazil.What do you think Zimbabwe can do to increase its exports to Brazil?
AM: We need to establish contact at the business level so that we can have more knowledge about the potential of both markets. We are interested in strengthening cooperation with Zimbabwe so that we can improve trade.
TK: Are there any Zimbabwean investors who have expressed interest towards investing in Brazil?
AM: So far there is some interest. There are some talks. We are focussing on more technical co-operation.
With regard to trade, we must know each other better. The trade volumes between the two countries is still very small but it is growing. We have products coming into Zimbabwe which are repackaged in South Africa, but in reality they are from Brazil.
TK: Zimbabwe is battling a power deficit; do you think this is an opportunity that can excite Brazilian investors?
AM: Earlier on I mentioned about the energy sector which Brazil is interested about. We are already looking at the Batoka Gorge power project. We have investors in Brazil who are interested in that project. It is a big project.
The investors are looking for the opportunity to build the project.
TK: Brazil is the largest economy in South America, what lessons do you think Zimbabwe can draw from the experiences of Brazil to grow its own economy?
AM: Both countries have a lot to learn from each other. It is a two-way relationship. We have common challenges; common history. We can co-operate a lot in the field of education and health.
TK: Zimbabwe’s ruling party is facing political challenges, how do Brazilian investors perceive Zimbabwe in light of this?
AM: I am working for my government. I do not work with perceptions. The investors will come. This country has opportunities. It is a question of time. The investors will come.
TK: Zimbabwe has been running its own version of the carnival festival tailored along the Brazilian fashion; do you think the local version has the potential to grow?
AM: We follow that very well. We are happy to see Brazilians coming to participate in the Zimbabwean carnival festival. I hope the Brazilian participants will come again. I want to see more groups here, more singers, more dancers and more artistes. The fundamentals of our music are very common. Brazil has about 60% of its population with African origins. I am hoping to see more Brazilians participating.
TK: And lastly your Excellency, Zimbabwe will be holding elections next year, would you be interested to observe the polls?
AM: Brazil is focusing on its own elections which will also be held next year. How can we worry about other countries when we have our elections to take care of?
TK: Lastly, how do you think Zimbabwe and Brazil can deepen bilateral cooperation?
AM: We can co-operate in any area. We want to improve. We are here to work with government to improve our relations. We are open to consider any proposals. We have a common history and challenges.
Fact File: Ana Maria Pinto Morales
- Master’s degree in International Public Policy through the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, a division of the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, United States;
- Former under-secretary of South America, chief of staff in Brazil;
- Former first secretary and counsellor, Brazilian embassy in Washington DC, United States; and
- Former second secretary Mission of Brazil to the United Nations.