What you need to know:
- With his pragmatism, Lula has shown that we must protect our environment without conserving poverty.
This week, Brazil re-elected the charismatic Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula. He won an incredible election and made the most unlikely of comebacks in recent memory.
In every respect, Brazil is a fascinating country with its carnivals, samba, and soccer. It is a place of great entertainment, great seriousness and grand faith. It is like most of Africa.
Brazil has a terrible and glorious history, in equal measure. And there is no better embodiment of the story of Brazil than the story of Lula. Both DR Congo and Brazil have been described as “the lungs of the world” - home of the largest forests in the world.
Brazil is one of the most ecologically blessed nations in the world with an overall rich heritage. In addition, it is the ninth largest oil producing nation in the world, producing 3.2 million barrels of oil per day.
Brazil has a powerful national oil company called Petrobras and if there is a country that stands as a shining example of how Africa can develop with its oil, it is Brazil.
If there is a leader who provides an example of how Africa can stand its ground, it is Lula.
Of course, Brazil still has a multitude of challenges because there is no magic silver bullet, not even oil that can single-handedly solve the development challenges of a developing country.
It is worth noting that Lula’s victory was greeted with universal celebration from “climate activists” around the world. After his opponent, outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro, made unsuccessful attempts to remove Brazil from the Paris Climate Agreement, he was seen by these “climate activists” as a threat to the planet. One that would cut down the Amazon rainforest.
In an interview with Time Magazine that was republished after Lula’s victory, he was asked if Brazil would join an anti-oil bloc, in which countries would immediately stop exploration for oil as suggested by a politician in Colombia.
Furthermore, he was asked if he would oppose the development of any new fossil fuel project in Brazil.
Lula replied, “He [Colombian politician] has the right to propose whatever he wants. But, in the case of Brazil …we still need oil for a while… as long as you don’t have alternative energy, you will continue to use the energy that you have… You cannot imagine the United States stopping its use of oil from one day to the next.”
Lula is absolutely right. There are no circumstances under which the US will abandon oil production.
On the very day that the interview was republished, US president Joe Biden ordered oil companies to produce more oil or face the wrath of the US government. It should be obvious to all that energy security is an integral part of any nation’s survival and prosperity. Countries that cannot power their economies will not develop off of fanciful theories. Lula knows this and Biden knows this.
The strength of the world’s progressive leaders must always be seen in their pragmatism.
As African leaders prepare to go to COP27 in Egypt, they must be firm and pragmatic. They should ignore activists who will fly to Egypt funded by billionaire families in the West, as part of a feel good project.
They should know that there is no point in being praised by all manner of Western media while keeping our people energy insecure and utterly poor.
Sometimes it is better to be booed by activists, ridiculed by journalists and misunderstood by diplomats while lifting your people out of poverty.
With his pragmatism, Lula has shown that we must protect our environment without conserving poverty. It is pragmatism, an approach that evaluates theories in terms of the success of their practical application that will save the planet.
Elison Karuhanga is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates