An introduction to the Lusophone World…

What is the Lusophone world, and how can Portugal use these cultural links to benefit both itself and its former African colonies?

Portugal is an excellent example of a former maritime superpower that has succeeded in turning its post-colonial ties with its African colonies and Latin America into something positive.

The Portuguese Empire took its language to places from Macau in the East to Brazil in the West, where it is widely spoken to this day as an official language.

Of some 250 million individuals who speak Portuguese as a first language, just under 11 million are Portuguese citizens.

This gives a unique soft power to modern Portugal, which is a dominant producer of knowledge, technology, and—in general—ideas.

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), often dubbed the Lusophone Commonwealth, was established in 1996 and has amassed nine member states.

The fact that CPLP is built on linguistic and cultural similarities rather than on the ruins of an empire has made it notably successful.

The organization’s activities range from defense cooperation and inter-parliamentary discussions to more youth-oriented activities such as student exchange programs.

Lusophone states influence each other in various ways. Portugal, for instance, plays a central role in knowledge-transfer.

Thanks to the country’s network of science and technology parks, many busi-ness ideas have come to life in Portugal in recent years. Low taxes for startups, the presence of a young and highly skilled workforce, and a variety of financing options are further factors that have turned the country into a hotspot of new business ideas. There is a growing list of unicorns coming out of Portugal such as OutSystems, Talkdesk, and Farfetch, to name but a few.

Many of these enterprises rely on an overseas market in the Portuguese-speaking world to flourish.

Technological products emerging from Portugal often quickly spread to the rest of the lusophone world. A consumer market of over 230 million is far more interesting for a business than a home market of roughly 10 million, particularly as other Portuguese-speaking territories, and Brazil in particular, are continuously improving in terms of purchasing power.

This is not to say that Portugal continues to have a form of post-colonial influence over its former dominions. In fact, Portugal is also an avid consumer of cultural products from the rest of the lusophone world.

Music and television programs produced in Brazil, for example, often find popularity in Portugal. This, as such, has largely been a give-and-take relationship.

To sum it up so far, Portugal’s historical ties with countries such as Brazil, Angola, and Mozambique have been largely a force for good in modern times, especially in areas such as technology-transfer. Portu-gal has successfully emerged as a European powerhouse for creativity and entrepreneurship, with many Portuguese companies seeing a market for their innovation somewhere overseas where Portuguese is spoken.

Consultants such as Asseco, for example, have accelerated the digitalization of banking in Africa, where the number of unbanked individuals is significant. Such consultants have tried to capitalize on their knowledge of the target markets to streamline localization operations.

“One of the primary challenges is meeting the ever-increasing demands of users who expect user-friendly technology,” notes Daniel Araujo, CEO of Asseco Portugal, in an interview with TBY, adding that “regulatory compliance is another obstacle faced by companies.”

Issue such as simplifying regulatory compliance for Portuguese companies is often beyond the control of companies themselves and takes shape within the larger context of diplomatic and economic relations between the Portuguese government and the rest of the Lusophone world.

Portugal-Brazil economic links are arguably the largest of the lot. Portugal exports roughly USD900 million worth of goods to Brazil, while importing twice that volume from the Lusophone Latin American nation.

In terms of services, the game is quite one-sided, with Portugal exporting USD500 million worth of services to Brazil with-out importing any services. This perfectly suits Portugal’s status as a service economy and that of Brazil as a rising manufacturing hub.

Not everything that Portugal is doing across Lusophone Latin America and Africa is strictly profit-oriented. The country, at times, invests in long-term initiatives that are intended to lay the foundations of certain African nations’ business ecosystem.

In 2022, for example, Portugal signed a deal with the African Development Bank (AFDB), offering a “big boost to business development initiatives for the Bank’s non-sovereign portfolio in its Portuguese-speaking African member countries,” according to the AFDB.

Among the dignitaries in attendance during the signing ceremony were Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Portugal’s prime minister António Costa, which is indicative of such event’s high profile.

Portugal has promised to extend EUR400 million, in the form of guarantees, to private sector projects in Africa deemed worthy by the AFDB.

In addition to Angola and Mozambique, the list includes smaller African nations such as Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea (despite being Hispanophone), Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé and Príncipe, where we are soon likely to witness the blossoming of Portugal-backed enterprises.