10 Things You Didn’t Know Nigeria Has in Common with Brazil


NigeriaBrazilDo you know that Brazil and Nigeria have a lot in common? Even though both countries are many miles and oceans apart and Brazil is a multiracial Country, their connections run very deep.  If you’re a Nigerian planning to be at the Rio 2016 Olympics, you’ll be happy to know that Brazil looks and feels like ‘home’ in so many ways, apart from a deep passion for football, religion and home movies. Read on to find out more, and if you’re adventurous, visit the Nigeria Hospitality House at Rio 2016 Olympics and see for yourself.


#1. Football

People of both countries have a mutual passion for football; the sport has a cult followership that surpasses religious and ethnic differences. Also, they are known for great achievements in the game, and have produces some of the World’s best footballers and legends of the sport, such as Ronaldo and Ronaldinho (from Brazil) and Kanu Nwankwo and Mikel Obi (from Nigeria).


#2. Spirituality and Religion

Both countries are deeply religious, with majority Brazilians practicing Catholicism (Brazil has the highest Population of Catholics believers South America and Nigeria also has the highest Catholic believer in Africa). The Yoruba traditional religion is widely practiced openly in Brazil.


#3. Shared History

Both countries were colonized (Brazil by Portugal, Nigeria by Britain) before becoming independent countries. Brazil and Nigeria have a pre-independence connection to Portugal and slave trading. The Portuguese traded in slaves in both countries, with Nigeria being a source of slaves and Brazil being the final destination where slaves were brought to manually cultivate sugarcane plantations, among other chores. Some Nigerians returned home after the abolition of slavery in 1888, and they brought back some Brailianness with them.


#4. Weather, Geography and Mineral Resources

Both countries are rich in natural and agricultural resources  – they have huge oil reserves, with Brazil being one of the World’s top 10 producer and Nigeria is also a major oil producer.

Both countries have huge amounts of solid minerals – Brazil has beautiful precious stones and Nigeria has plenty of untapped mineral deposits.

It’s amazing how similar Nigeria and Brazil are in geography. Being on the opposite side of each other on the World map, and only separated by the Atlantic, some geologists even claim that millions of years ago the Ocean did not exist between both countries (meaning, no physical boundary and that the two countries  were joined; and that a continental drift gradually shifted them apart).

With a similar time-zone (Nigeria being 4 hours ahead), both countries have a similar tropical, warm weather and large thick rain forests (Brazil has the popular Amazon forest) and waterfalls (Brazil has Iguassu waterfall, Nigeria has Ikogosi) and beaches.

#5. Government and Economy

Both countries are dominant emerging economies and stand out on their respective continents – Brazil is popularly called the South American Powerhouse while Nigeria is known as the Giant of Africa.

They have a history of similar government systems – both had been colonised before gaining independence, each saw over 30 years of Military rule and both are now operating a Federal system of Government.

Both Nigeria and Brazil built their capital cities from scratch and in the geographic centre of their countries (Nigeria built Abuja; Brazil built Brasilia).


#6. Population

Brazil and Nigeria are both highly populated. The population of both countries are nearly the same.

Comparing their population in the World:

  • Brazil is the fifth most populated country in the world, with an estimated population of 190.8 million people (source: Wikipedia );
  • Nigeria, ranks closely as the eighth most populous in the world, with an estimated population of 170 million.

In their continents: While Brazil is the most populous country in South America, Nigeria enjoys the same number 1 status in Africa.

Here’s another fun one: Nigeria is said to have the highest black population and African descent in the World, seconded by Brazil. So, both countries have among the highest concentration of black people (Brazil has a black population estimated at over 100 million).

#7. Shared Culture, Heritage and Influences

Being the second largest group of slaves brought into Brazil during the colonial times, the Yorubas and their religion, culture, customs, food and music had a strong, visible Nigerian influence on Brazil.


Many Brazilians have a deep rooted Nigerian ancestry, and today you can find lots of similarities among the people of Brazil and Nigeria, such as:

  • Language: In parts of Brazil, such as the state of Bahia, people still speak Yoruba, which is widely spoken in Nigeria.
  • Strong religious ties: Traditional Yoruba religion is still practiced in Brazil, in Candomblé religion, where practitioners believe in the worship of the Yoruba orisha deity and sing and make incantations in the Yoruba language during worship sessions;
  • Architecture: The influence of Brazil on Nigeria is very visible on the streets of Lagos city centre. Relics of Brazilian architecture are still standing in some parts of Lagos Island, especially around Broad street, the area fondly called the ‘Brazilian quarters’ or Popo Aguda, around Campos Square, Igbosere, Tinubu square. On a visit to the Brazilian settlements in Lagos, you can find old Brazilian colonial-style houses, built by the freed returnee slaves, most of whom were bricklayers and masons.
  • Family Names: Descendants of returnee slaves in Nigeria have a stronghold to their Brazilian identity, their last names or family names. Brazilian-Portuguese last names such as Da Sousa, Da Silva, Veracruz, Salvador, Soares, Dos Santos, Fernandez, Ferreira, Cardoso, Pereira, Martinez, Marinho, Pineirho and Cruz. So, the next time a Nigerian calls a Portuguese name as their surname, you can quickly tell they have a Brazilian connection.
  • City and Street Names: Lagos, the name of a Nigerian state, and is a Portuguese word for ‘lagoon or lake’, and in Brazil, you can find names of buildings in Brazil that have Yoruba names;
  • The Brazilian Carnival tradition is one of those memories that the returnee slaves and their descendants are still preserving. To date, every year, just like the Rio carnival, the ‘Brazilian carnival’ is held on the streets of Lagos Island.
  • Music Beats and Traditional Dance Style: Brazilian traditional music beats, pace and rhythm is very similar to Nigeria’s. It’s said that their samba music originated from Nigeria.
  • Similar Traditional Outfits: Nigerians Yoruba fashion is widely worn by Brazilians. You can find women in Oro and Buba and Gele, and men wearing sokoto and agbada and fila.


Even Wikipedia documents the Brazilian-Nigerians (here) and the Nigerian-Brazilians (here).

nigeria-brazil headwrap

Nigerian headwrap (left) and Brazilian Headwrap (right) | Photo Credit: ZenMagazine

#8. Entertainment, Partying and Festivals/ Carnivals

People of both countries have a mutual love for TV dramas and home movies, and you can see that in Nollywood movies (Nigeria) and Telenovellas (Brazil), which are big exports to other countries.

Music, parties, dancing and traditional festivals are a huge part of both Brazilian and Nigerian culture. Brazilians love carnivals, with the annual Rio Carnival being very popular all over the World. Their Nigerian cousins have similar merry festivals such as the eyo festival in Lagos, boat regatta in the Niger delta regions, Grand Durbar in the North, the Calabar and Lagos carnivals respectively, the new yam festivals in the East, among regional cultural celebrations that happen throughout the year.

People of both countries are known to be happy, irrespective of how much or little they have or the problems they’re facing. They fun seekers and so weekends and public holidays are always a good excuse to indulge.

nigeria-brazil carnival

Nigerian Carnival in Lagos (left) and Brazilian Carnival (right)

#9. Music and Dance Styles


Both Nigeria and Brazil have a vibrant music industry, with internationally-popular artists. The way Brazilians produce popular traditional music and merry dancing is similar to the way it is done in Nigerian, using drums and rich percussion rhythms. This could be due to the saying that Brazilian samba and “batuque” rhythms originated from Nigeria, as you can see in the video below.

(ABOVE: Brazilians singing in Yoruba and dancing in the same cultural dance, wearing agbada and buba and sokoto – Yoruba traditional outfit).


In both countries, there is the mutual love for fast-paced, sensual dance steps, which you can see when you watch Samba dance. This is also similar with Nigerian music.


Women of both countries are experts at twerking, which had been part of their traditional dance styles for ages. Both Brazilians and Nigerians have been dancing the booty dance long before it became a ‘thing’ for the Western World (thanks to Fela Anikulapo Kuti).

So, if you’re a Nigerian visiting Rio, Brazil during the Olympic, you can be sure you’ve got good enough dance skills to fit into any Brazilian party.

#10. Food/ Cuisine

Cassava is a staple dish in both countries (prepared as garri in Nigeria and as manioc in Brazil). And they also cook with Palm oil.


Brazilians also eat ‘akara’, the Nigerian bean-cakes. Yes, the exact, same street food and breakfast and snack favourite in Nigeria. The recipe and way they make it is exactly the way we prepare it in Naija. And, you know what? They call it ‘acaraje’, which literally means ‘eat akara’ in Yoruba language.  So, the next time you visit Brazil, be sure to find an ‘akara’ joint – and maybe even have it the Naija way – ‘akara’ burger.

In the food department, these are also common in Brazil: root vegetables such as yam and cassava, mangoes, palm oil, stews, beans, rice – so you know that when you visit Brazil, you can find familiar food, most are prepared similar to how we cook them here.

brazil woman frying caraje

ABOVE: Woman frying akara on the street | Photo Credit: LATimes



So, there you have it for many reasons why you should visit Nigeria House at Brazil during this 2016 Rio Olympics – you should come to see for yourself, it’s nearly like Nigeria.

With millions of Afro-Brazilians having an ancestral connection to Nigeria, it’s no wonder why the country of Samba has so much of Nigerianness infused in its music, food and religion.