MAPUTO — Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva began a two-day visit to Mozambique on Tuesday, focusing on education and health care in his last trip to Africa before leaving office.
Lula, who hands over the reins to protege Dilma Rousseff on January 1, has made Africa a foreign policy priority during his presidency, in particular building Brazil's relationship with fellow former Portuguese colony Mozambique.
Delivering the inaugural lecture in a new distance learning programme at Mozambique's national teachers' university, Lula said Brazil owes a historical debt to Africa.
"When we decided to prioritise our relationship with the African continent, and with African Portuguese-speaking countries in particular, we had some reasons," Lula said.
"The moulding of the Brazilian people had a lot to do with the people of the African continent. Brazilian people are happy, beautiful, love samba, carnival and football, and know how to move their hips because we are an extraordinary mixture of Africans, Indians, etc."
Dressed in a plain white shirt open at the neck, the former miner called education an "instrument of democratisation" and the best means to build a prosperous society, and urged the countries of the global south to take their development into their own hands.
"We had our heads colonised for centuries and we learned that we were inferior beings," he said.
"What we want is for us all to lift our heads together and not construct an idea that the south has to be dependent on the north."
Since Lula's first year in office in 2003, trade between Brazil and Africa has nearly tripled, from 6.2 billion dollars to 17.2 billion dollars at the end of 2009, according to the Brazil's foreign commerce ministry.
During his presidency, Lula has often said that Brazil, one of the last countries in the world to abolish slavery, in 1888, is home to more black people than any country in the world except Nigeria.
Seventy-six million of the country's 190 million people are Afro-Brazilian, and Lula has made a point of prioritising relations with Africa in his push for greater south-south cooperation.
His visit this week -- a stop on his way to the G20 summit in South Korea -- bookends his presidency with trips to Mozambique, where he also made a state visit during his first year in office in 2003.
The impoverished southern African country is the second-largest recipient of Brazilian foreign aid after Haiti, receiving 70 million reals (41 million dollars) a year from Brazil.
Brazil has pledged to fund the new distance learning programme to the tune of 32 million dollars over seven years. Graduates will receive degrees from both their Brazilian and Mozambican universities.
Brazil says the programme, which aims to enroll more than 7,000 students in its first seven years, will eventually be expanded to other Portuguese-speaking countries.
Lula will on Wednesday inaugurate the continent's first public anti-retroviral drug factory in the Mozambican capital, a project that aims to help the country's fight against HIV by increasing the availability and affordability of the key anti-AIDS medicine.
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