||This article analyses Brazil’s growing role in external development assistance. During Lula da Silva’s presidency, cooperation with developing countries grew dramatically. While the official position is that Brazilian development assistance is moved not by national economic or political interests, but by international ‘solidarity’, and does not reproduce the North–South traditional aid relations, we suggest that it is not completely divorced from national, sub-national or sectoral interests and cannot be viewed apart from Brazil’s broader foreign policy objectives. Brazil does pursue political, economic and commercial interests and, concomitantly, has made a positive difference in the recipient countries. However, more empirical research and field investigation are needed to better gauge the impact of Brazil’s assistance initiatives and their contributions to South–South cooperation more broadly. During Lula’s terms (2003–2010), Brazil could be classified as a ‘Southern donor’, which expresses the country’s own novelties, and tensions, of simultaneously being a donor and a developing country.