(MENAFN- Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA)) By Qais Shqair
Culture has a significant role in the economic relations between the Arab countries and Brazil, going beyond the values that usually direct relations between other nations. In Arab countries, Brazilian products are preferred by consumers for reasons related to the high level of affection that citizens have for the country and the historical relations, laden with political positions in support of Arab issues, specially the Palestinian cause. But to what extent can we invest in this particularity as an essential factor for increasing trade between Brazil and the Arab countries and promote joint investment between the two sides?
As for Brazil, the fact that 6% of Brazilians are Arab descentants opens doors to consider the impact of this large portion of citizens on the development of economic relations with the Arab world, given the well-known active role of this community in several fields in Brazil, such as politics, economy and society, as well as their high level of education.
What does it mean for the Arab consumer to prefer Brazilian products instead of others? How can this be used in the development of economic ties between Arabs and Brazilians?
Firstly , to reach a precise scientific model, it is necessary to study the trends of Arab consumers, the factors that determine their choices, and the considerations that lead them to prefer certain products, considering their origin. The Brazilian manufacturer, exporter and investor could take advantage of this model to maximize opportunities for the sale of its commodities and neutralize barriers that may hinder its flow to the Arab markets, including competition from leading exporters, led by China, and from this analysis determine the comparative advantage of goods and products better suited for competing. The study will have to prioritize the promotion of Brazilian products that have not yet had access to the Arab market but can compete with their counterparts from other countries on an even level, including but not limited to cosmetics from Brazil.
Secondly , it is necessary to overcome the hurdle of geographic distance, as per the proposal for a strategic partnership, previously set forth, including the main ports of the Mediterranean and the creation of industrial hubs in these regions through joint projects.
Thirdly , the aforementioned considerations should be supported by strengthening Brazil's cultural presence in the Arab countries, which is welcomed from the outset by the Arab consumer, setting up Brazilian cultural centers in some countries according to the target market. These centers could be facilities for disseminating the Portuguese language, Brazilian culture, and for marketing the products, thus creating a favorable environment for Brazilian products to compete with an edge.
On the Brazilian side, the Arab roots represented by 11.6 million Arab Brazilians make it essential to apply the cultural factor in strengthening ties between Arabs and Brazilians in the different segments, primarily in the economy. We can start with the psychological aspect: The fact that Brazilian goods generally have a preferential edge among the Arab consumers could serve as a driver for the Arab Brazilian exporter to explore investment opportunities in the Arab markets.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of employing the cultural dimension in strengthening economic ties is investing in the cultural factor in the economy and in the economic factor in culture. These are the two most intertwined aspects in the Brazilian scenario. Hence the need for joint Arab-Brazilian investments in the Brazilian market, which has over 210 million inhabitants, representing a major gateway to many countries in South America.
Areas for implementation of cultural aspects in the development of economic ties between Arabs and Brazilians:
Education, both in schools and universities
The teaching of the Arabic language and the dissemination of Arab culture are two crucial pillars for the use of the culture to strenghten economic ties and the use of economy at the service of culture. The broader scope of this equation is found in the media aspect, such as a project to launch an Arabic satellite channel that would broadcast Arabic documentaries, movies and series with Portuguese subtitles, thus reinforcing the teaching and learning of the Arabic language and guaranteeing a competent labor force that could provide translation services. These movies and TV shows should be attractive for the Brazilian viewers, especially Arab Brazilians, giving them cultural information on the history of their countries of origins as well as topics regarding Arab current and past social life.
Arab Brazilian Digital Cultural Platform
The Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce has recently launched the Arab-Brazilian cultural platform project, Arab House, which is a paramount project due to its relatively low cost and high return, and will lead the way for what we discussed about the employment of culture at the service of the economy, and vice versa, by developing programs for teaching Arabic and Portuguese and disseminating Arab and Brazilian cultures in each side. In this sense, it is possible to notice the Chinese experience in launching cultural platforms with several countries, even some Arab ones, including teaching Arabic and Chinese language and disseminating Chinese culture while expanding its exports to Arab markets.
Strengthening mutual programs for teaching Arabic and Portuguese
Programs and courses offered by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Arab countries, Brazil, and universities and academic institutions could strengthen bilateral relations between the regions. The implementation of these programs in the qualification of diplomats and employees working in the commercial, economic, and investment promotion areas would have a significant and highly effective influence.
The easiest way to implement the abovementioned ideas is for private companies in the Arab countries and Brazil to partner up in adopting many of these projects and a profitable perspective. As previously mentioned, the vision of this work is based on the economic use of culture and thus benefiting from it for strengthening Arab-Brazilian economic ties and the consequent cooperation in other fields.
The fact that the private sector assumes this task does not mean excluding the official role of governments; on the contrary, adopting this task at the official level is the basis for launching any cultural plan that could contribute to developing economic relations between the two regions. The partnership between the public and private sectors of these countries will play a key role in the success of any projects in this regard.
Ambassador Qais Shqair is head of the Arab League mission in Brazil.
Translated by Elúsio Brasileiro
The opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors.
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