Wednesday, January 19

Nigeria and South Africa have a love-hate relationship

President Cyril Ramaphosa is visiting four West African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal. Wale Fatade from The Conversation Africa asked international relations expert Olawale Olusola about the importance of Ramaphosa’s visit to Nigeria and what could help improve the relationship between the two countries.

How important is this visit?

It is significant in several ways.

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First, it coincides with the tenth session of the Nigeria-South Africa Binational Commission. This was settled down in 1999 to strengthen Bilateral political, economic and trade relations between the two countries. Therefore, it is an opportunity to assess the progress of investment and trade between the two countries.

It is also a way to restore calm in bilateral relations between the two most important countries in Africa. Despite the volume of trade between the two countries – US $ 2.9 billion by 2020 – there are still gray areas. These include operational obstacles that Nigerian investors face when wanting to do business in South Africa. It also includes relationships between people. This remains a matter of great concern given xenophobic attacks in South Africa. This also affects the commercial interests of both countries, as existing companies in either country could become targets.

South African companies are well represented in Nigeria, but there are few Nigerian companies in South Africa. South Africa imported In 2020, goods from Nigeria worth 2.48 billion US dollars, mainly crude oil, and exported to Nigeria worth 425 million US dollars.

It is also significant that President Ramaphosa visits Nigeria first on his West African tour. It will continue through Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

A meeting between Nigeria and South Africa is always a reminder of the cultural and social ties that both countries have invested in over a long period, but underutilized.

For example, Nigeria contributed to the emancipation of South Africa from apartheid rule. Nigerian civil servants paid out a so-called Mandela Tax to support the African National Congress in the fight against apartheid.

South Africa was equally at the forefront of the fight against the dictatorial regime of Sani Abacha in 1995.

This visit is important especially in an era of global economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries must make efforts to promote bilateral ties given their struggling economies. Also to lead the way in promoting Africa continental free trade area.

Could the binational commission be made more effective?

The basic architecture of the foreign economic relations between Nigeria and South Africa is embodied in the activities of the commission.

When it was established in 1999, the two countries pledged to accelerate relations in foreign policy, culture, agriculture and health. The presidents at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki, agreed to cooperate in all multilateral institutions, including the World Trade Organization.

But the commission has accomplished little in relation to its mandate. This, most likely, is the result of infighting and challenges in the politics and economy of Nigeria and South Africa.

The commission should focus on removing barriers that hinder the easier movement of goods and people between the two countries. For example, there is no reason why Nigeria and South Africa cannot implement a VISA on arrival policy. This is an agreement that Nigeria has with Kenya.

The commission could also become a formal structure and be expanded to include the private sector and diasporas.

How would you characterize the relationship: collaboration or competition?

Both of them. The relationship between Nigeria and South Africa is often characterized by collaboration as well as intense competition. Collaboration is good and desirable, but so is healthy competition or rivalry, especially when it comes to creating and innovating.

It is a love-hate relationship.

Both countries have helped advance pan-African ideals by providing effective continental leadership. They have called on other countries to restore peace and stability to troubled African countries. Nigeria and South Africa defended the birth of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development , the african union and established a joint commission, all in an attempt to promote the rebirth of Africa.

On the other hand, several problems have strained their relationship. These include xenophobic attacks against immigrants, including Nigerians, in South Africa.

At other levels, the evaluation of relationships is simply a function of perception and guesswork. These are often framed in the garb of hegemonic discourse. For example, Nigeria likes to project itself as the giant of Africa. He also likes to emphasize his leadership role within the Economic Community of West African States.

For its part, South Africa projects itself as a regional power in the Southern African Development Community.

The interconnected nature of the global economy, the political and economic challenges on the continent, and the need for African unity dictate that Nigeria and South Africa collaborate. In doing so, they should not be seen as imperialists, but as partners with other African governments.

Has South Africa done enough to tackle xenophobia?

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have been a major drawback in contemporary African relations. South Africa’s constitution and immigration policy are built on the cornerstone of human rights doctrines. But protecting the lives and property of immigrants in post-apartheid South Africa remains a subject of great controversy.

Following the xenophobic attacks of 2019, the South African government apologized to Nigeria. But there are more South African leaders who can do. This includes engaging leaders and youth in open, frank, constructive, and ongoing conversations about their responsibility to respect humanity and to take a stand against the kind of barbarism that shaped their own recent history. They must hold high-level political visits like that of President Ramaphosa.

Above all, however, they must demonstrate a greater commitment to tackling the social ills of poverty and inequality at the center of young people’s grievances. One of the main causes of xenophobic attacks is the persistent socio-economic crisis and feelings of deprivation among young black South Africans. Inequality and poverty are deeply embedded in the country’s apartheid and colonial legacy. This has been compounded by the post-1994 failures of successive administrations to transform the economy and make it more inclusive.

The South African government must address these problems. And guarantee justice for the victims.

Adedeji Ademola, PhD Candidate in the Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, helped research this article.The conversation

Olawale Olusola, Expert in International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.

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