- Tinubu, Ramaphosa to meet in November
By Chinenye Anuforo, Johannesburg, South Africa
Stronger and more cordial trade and political relationships between the two leading economies of Africa, Nigeria and South Africa (SA) will translate to the development of the continent, experts from both countries have said.
They argued that from 1999 to 2007 when Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki were presidents of Nigeria and South Africa respectively, the continent benefitted from the politically strong and committed government of both countries.
The experts disclosed this in South Africa during the visit of the second cohort of MTN Media Innovation Fellows from Nigeria in continuation of their training programme, sponsored by MTN Nigeria, in collaboration with the Pan African University (PAU), Lagos.
Specifically, Programme Head, African Governance and Diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Mr. Steven Gruzd, explained that, the commitment of both Obasanjo and Mbeki during their reigns, led to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), designed to strengthen trade relationship among African countries and to put Africa on sustainable development path. This he said, the continent is still benefitting from to date.
He therefore called for renew commitment from current leaders of the two countries for sustained political and trade relationships.
According to him, when the relationship of the both countries are strong, the whole of Africa will benefit like during the Obasanjo and Mbeki regime.
Fielding questions from Nigerian journalists, Gruzd said: “When bilateral relationship between both countries is strong, it will benefit citizens of Nigeria and South Africa, but when the relation is weak, it will adversely affect the well-being of the citizens of both countries.”
Gruzd, who spoke in details about the challenges faced in South Africa, said the issue of sporadic spread of Xenophobia in South Africa, affected businesses of foreign nationals living and doing businesses in South Africa, which included Nigerian traders. He called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to re-strategise in their policies in order to ensure free trade relationship and easy access to visa travel document, including unhindered cross-border financial transactions between Nigeria and South Africa.
Also speaking at the event, Nigeria High Commissioner to South Africa, Mohammad Haruna Manta, also call for stronger trade, investment and people-to-people relations between the nation’s adding that this will also benefit the continent.
He pointed out that Nigeria and SA needs to resolve their historical differences caused by competition and fight for supremacy adding that cooperation between the two countries will send a global message to other countries that Nigeria and South Africa are ready and willing to work together. He also disclosed that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa in November this year for a business-to-business interaction that will further strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
The meeting is part of the Bi-National Commission that was formed in 1999, to strengthen trade relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
According to Manta, preparations are being made in South Africa to receive President Tinubu and his team for the meeting in November.
Manta said President Tinubu would be discussing business matters as they affect both countries, including visa permit for Nigerians that are travelling to South Africa.
According to him, the Nigeria-South Africa relationship was cordial under the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, which he said, led to the formation of the Bi-National Commission between both countries in 1999.
He however said the relationship started losing bond years after both leaders left the stage as presidents, leading to the re-location of most South African businesses in Nigeria, back to South Africa. The strained relationship between both countries, according to him, is currently affecting Nigerians who are regularly denied visa to travel to South Africa.
On her own part, Deputy Minister, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Republic of South Africa, Mashego Dlamini, who also made reference to Nigeria and South Africa relationship during Obasanjo/Mbeki regime emphasised the importance to deepen trade and investment relations as well as stronger people-to-people relations between the two countries.
According to her, Nigeria is a strategic partner to SA, in her pursuit of mutually beneficial cooperation and development of the continent as a whole.
She said, “Africa suffers when the relation between Nigeria and South Africa is not balanced. Equally, when the two countries are going through difficulties, Africa devoid of leadership and problems persist.
This means that South Africa and Nigeria strong relation contribute to Africa development and prosperity. South Africa and Nigeria have pioneered a number of initiatives to propel the continent forward which some of their successes remain untold.”
Confirming the November Bi-National Commission meeting Dlamini said the meeting would be an avenue for both the Nigeria and South Africa presidents to discuss bi-lateral trade relationship and enter into some agreements that will further strengthen the relationship between both countries. She further said the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, would also be looked into, to enable small businesses to thrive in Africa.
“South Africa values the bi-lateral relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, and we are committed in building relations and in strengthening cooperation with African countries and other countries of the world. We consider African countries as strategic in developing the African continent for a number of reasons. One of the key pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy is the consolidation and implementation of the African agenda. This means that South Africa will continue to support regional integration, intra-Africa trade and support people-to-people progression, in 2015, the African Union adopted the African agenda 2063, which intends to build Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics and respect for religious diversities,” Dlamini said.
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