Nigeria-South Africa economic relations

(FILES) This file photo taken on November 10, 2015 shows South African President Jacob Zuma attending a press conference following talks with the German Chancellor at the chancellery in Berlin. Beleaguered South African President Jacob Zuma faces on March 1, 2016 a no-confidence vote in parliament for a second time in less than a year and a legal bid to reinstate corruption charges against him. The mounting pressure on the president comes against a background of economic crisis sparked by his firing of two finance ministers within days in December 2015.  / AFP / JOHN MACDOUGALL

 South African President Jacob Zuma 

The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma visited Nigeria this week amidst the significant economic challenges facing the economy and perceived tensions between both Nations. CNBC Africa’s Wole Famurewa discussed business relations between the largest economies on the African continent as well as the challenges faced by South African companies operating in Nigeria.
ZUMA: The visit is very important just like any state visit and of course it also goes with time and challenges. You will know that for a while, the relations between South Africa and Nigeria were there but were vigorously pushed deeper. I think faced with the current challenges of the economic meltdown globally and the challenges that face the continent in terms of its growth, intra-trade, looking in itself to develop.

We are dealing with a number of things on the continent, I think it is a logical thing that everyone says that between Nigeria and South Africa, there is something that needs to be done so that they could be at the front line in terms of leading the economic growth and employment in the continent and therefore, this visit happening amidst those challenges talks to those kind of issues. How do we look at our relationship now? We cannot continue our relations between the two countries just like businesses as usual, we have to take very specific measures to ensure that we emerge and step forward.

That is why I am here; looking at the bi-national commission, can it continue the way it has been continuing, we have lots of agreements that we have decided on but not all of them have been implemented although the nations or the economic relations have been growing. We have taken a decision with the President that we elevate the level of the bi-national commission that it is shared by the heads of state. That is one of the measures to ensure that the leadership of very critical areas of organized mechanism between the two countries is shared by us to ensure that we monitor, study the progress of what is being done, if the direction is correct, that is what we think we need to do.

Also, we need to look at the investment between the two countries, what are things that are not going to occur because certain companies have certain feelings; they should be a combination of political awareness and business awareness that we are all looking forward to reach a particular objective.  If that is the case, let us therefore coordinate our interests, they can’t be moving in different directions but that we are able as two counties to use the weight we have to ensure that Africa moves forward.

FAMUREWA: You spoke of the bi-national commission and I just want to get your perspective on the expected impact of this. What does this do in terms of changing the game for trade relations between both countries?

ZUMA: If these are two leading economies in the continent, whatever we do impacts on the continent so what we do between the two countries will pull other countries in the same direction. For example, Africa has taken a decision as a continent to integrate the five economic regions, three have already come together to form a common market, the discussions between the remaining two are going on. This is to create a huge market which is a market of over one billion people and these two countries come from two regions, ECOWAS and SADC and therefore these regions on their own have to work whilst other things are coming together and we believe that we can, if we work together correctly.

First integration will be quicker and faster and it would have an impact. Secondly, we are looking at the security of the continent, if these two countries combine and are able to pull their weight in the security activities in the continent, it will go very far. So, once the economy moves, or are integrated, the manner we look at the security of the continent will certainly take a different dimension because we are protecting our own. It will not be like one country protecting only his own, it will be all of us putting our efforts to protect the continent, that is the impact it would make.

FAMUREWA: Many can point to multiple signs of tension between both Countries, some speak to the Xenophobic attacks we saw last year, MTN which is currently dealing with a huge fine in this country and many other South African companies are also looking to move out of Nigeria citing a tough business environment.  In that context, I want to get your thoughts on how you would describe business relations between both countries.

ZUMA: This visit is an important activity that will impact all of that. It means a much tighter kind of organization which means that South Africa and Nigeria are talking about what is happening between the countries and are therefore providing solutions to those kind of problems so those problems will go away but I have noticed that people love negative things, they don’t look at the positive things which often makes it difficult to know the cause of tension between the Countries.

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