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West Africa Rising: Latin American leaders bolster ties to Africa at World Social Forum

As economies boom on both sides of the South Atlantic, analysts say new lines are being sketched between Africa and Latin America.

By Drew HinshawCorrespondent / February 8, 2011

Visitors walk near a sculpture in the shape of the African continent during a World Social Forum event at Place du Souvenir in Dakar, Senegal, Monday, Feb. 7. The World Social Forum kicked off in this corner of west Africa on Sunday, its mantra of social change 'another world is possible' proving especially resonant as antigovernment uprisings continue to rock Egypt in the northern part of the continent.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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Dakar, Senegal

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Latin America and Africa must defy the flow of global commerce by trading and forming closer ties, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told African leaders Monday at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal.

It's a message the center-left leader has delivered before on the 12 tours of Africa he took during his eight years in office, which just ended with the close of 2010.

“In the 29 African countries I visited as president, I’ve been struck by the vitality with which Africa is taking control of its destiny,” he said. “I have the conviction in my heart that in the world that is coming into being, Africa has more relevance than ever to developing nations.”

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Since 2003, Brazil has doubled its Africa embassies and multiplied trade with the continent five-fold, making it “the tip of the spear in terms of Latin American engagement with Africa,” says Anne Frahauf, an Africa analyst with the Eurasia Group consulting firm in New York.

A new alignment?

The people of Latin America and Africa have shared cash crops, symmetrical coastlines, and mirror histories of European conquest followed by military rule. But they've shared little else in terms of 21st century trade or global diplomatic ties.

The economic and geopolitical interests of both continents have remained strictly parallel, formed along longitudinal lines that go directly north to the US and Europe, respectively. But as economies boom on both sides of the South Atlantic, analysts say new lines are being sketched between the two continents, particularly between the chunks that jut closer to each other: Brazil and West Africa.

Unite politically, urges Lula

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