World Cup has been a failure for Brazil
The World Cup is far from over but it’s not too early to declare it a failure for Brazil: The country has missed a golden opportunity to rebrand itself as an emerging technological power and to upgrade its stereotype of being the nation of carnival, beaches and soccer.
Here are some of the stories you are not hearing from the more than 5,000 journalists from 70 countries who have traveled to Brazil to cover the world’s biggest sporting event:
• Brazil is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. Its Embraer aircraft maker is the world leader in production of mid-size passenger planes, which it sells to American Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa and nearly 80 other commercial airlines.
• Brazil’s state-run Embrapa research institute is one of the world’s leading agricultural research centers. It has developed, among other things, an acidic-soil-adapted soybean plant that has helped the country become one of the world’s biggest soybean exporters.
• Brazil has recently unveiled its “Startup Brazil” program aimed at turning the country into a world-class innovation center. Under the program, domestic and foreign high-tech startup companies can get nearly $100,000 in government aid, plus free office space. Hundreds of U.S. and European entrepreneurs have already applied, Startup Brazil officials say.
• Brazil also recently started a “Science without Borders” program to send 101,000 university students to pursue graduate degrees in mostly U.S. and European universities. The program is aimed at helping Brazil, which already produces 10,000 doctorates a year, get more foreign-trained Ph.D.s in science and engineering.
These and other Brazilian moves could help Brazil become a major emerging technological power. But, unfortunately, it has not been able to get that message out during the World Cup.
Simon Anholt, a British consultant who publishes a massive annual “nation brand index” about how countries are perceived around the world, told me that Brazil has a relatively good, but “soft” international image.
“Brazil is a country that is regarded as decorative, but not useful,” Anholt said. “That’s bad for Brazil, because it limits its economic potential.”
It is a tragedy that Brazil has lost a magnificent opportunity to show itself to the world as a country that already can do much more than samba.
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for The Miami Herald.