Nigeria’s National Assembly on Tuesday urged the President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, to build a better relationship between his country and Nigeria.
In his welcome address, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, particularly observed that Nigerian businessmen suffer bottleneck entering into the South African market.
Saraki expressed belief that activating the memoranda of understanding that have been duly signed would be in the mutual interest of both nations.
“As representatives of our people, we cannot fail to use this opportunity to enable you feel their pulse. Though our two nations are doing well in the area of trade and investment our people have found entry into the South African market, bottlenecked. This is not the case for South African businesses in Nigeria. Nigerians, therefore, yearn for greater reciprocity in this area.
“This is also the case with travels and visa restrictions. Another area we cannot fail to emphasis is the need to activate our MOUs that have been duly signed, but are inactive. It is our belief that this would be in the mutual interest for greater integration, opportunity and engagement,” Saraki said.
In his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, noted that translating the brotherhood between the leaders of both countries to good relations between their citizens is the only way both countries could speak to true integration.
“South Africa has a large population of Nigerians living and contributing their quota to its development. We, as representatives of the people seek that this brotherhood between our leaders translates to good relations between citizens of both countries and it is only then that both countries can speak to true integration of our peoples in the interest of our continent,” Dogarà said.
Meanwhile, South Africa has recognised that there is need to forge a strong strategic partnership with Nigeria that would insulate both economies from the volatility of the global economy.
Zuma, who made the submission while addressing the joint session of the National Assembly, disclosed that South Africa already has not less than 120 companies in Nigeria from a mere four companies in 1999 as a way of maximizing the big Nigerian market with attendant economic benefits for both countries.
He said there was room for greater business-to-business engagements particularly in the areas Nigeria has identified as potential growth sectors.
Diversification of the economies of the two nations, according to him, should be the key for them in actualising such strategic partnership of economic benefits between them and insulation from the global economic crisis.
Such diversification and economic collaboration, he added, can be done in strategic areas of electricity generation and supply, agriculture and agro-processing, tourism development including the hospitality sector, mining, banking, infrastructure development, aviation, manufacturing and the automotive sector.
“We must strive for the diversification of our economies, so as to cast the net wide enough to create more job opportunities for our people, to improve their living conditions and grow our economies through domestic resources in the first instance.
“In doing this, we would break away from the colonial legacy that turned Africa into providers of primary commodities and recipients of processed goods. This is important because the current state of affairs makes Africa vulnerable to the volatilities of the international economy that sustains the uneven terms of trade.
“This diversification will go further to improve the impact that Africa can have in the global economy and to reconfigure the terms of trade.
“We must strive to bring the manufacturing plants closer to the sources of raw materials. South Africa and Nigeria can to a large extent complement each other towards the achievement of this.
“The current global economic climate, as the previous global economic crisis, has exposed the vulnerability of our economies and currencies and thus calls for concerted efforts toward South-south and intra-Africa cooperation.
“Economic cooperation between our two countries can therefore serve as bedrock of the continent’s economic cooperation and intra-Africa trade. This is the kind of leadership Africa expects South Africa and Nigeria to provide.
“In this regard, South Africa’s solid minerals mining experience can contribute to solid minerals exploration in Nigeria. Our experience in electricity generation can also be tapped into, to assist in Nigeria’s electricity generation, to name but a few,” he said.
Zuma in his submission, thanked Nigeria for her historic roles in the liberation of his country from Apartheid regime by particularly eulogising the late General Murtala Muhammed for leading other African leaders in the mid 1970s to champion the struggle.
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of one of the illustrious sons of Nigeria and Africa, General Murtala Muhammed. His tenure only lasted 200 days but it had a profound impact, particularly on the struggle against apartheid and colonialism in Southern Africa.
“Nigeria supported the liberation struggles of the people of Southern Africa and South Africa specifically outside of the multilateral fora.
“In his powerful speech to the OAU Extraordinary Summit on Angola in 1976, General Mohammed opened his address by saying and I quote.
“Mr Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true blooded African bleeds.’ In conclusion General Mohammed said: “Africa has come of age.” and will “no longer accept dictates from any so-called superpower.
“It was within this context that General Murtala Mohammed, immediately after the situation in Angola was explained to him, withdrew Nigeria’s support of the OAU position calling for a Government of National Unity between the FNLA of Holden Roberto, UNITA of Jonas Savimbi and the MPLA of Augostinho Neto.
“He took a firm decision for Nigeria to support the MPLA, which resonated with the position of many liberation movements in Southern Africa, including our own – the African National Congress.
“It is thus clear that ours are time-tested relations. Engagements between our countries far predate the formal relations established after South Africa attained its freedom.
“The people of Nigeria provided unwavering support and solidarity to the people of South Africa, to unseat the last bastion of colonialism in Africa and enable us to attain our freedom.
“I would like to remind especially the youth in our two countries, of the role that Nigeria played in the struggle for liberation in South Africa.
“Nigeria was very instrumental in establishing, in the 1960s and the chairing, for 25 years, the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid, and further hosted a UN anti-apartheid conference in 1977.
“From the mid-70s, Nigeria and its people also hosted some of the exiled freedom fighters from South Africa, with numbers increasing after the Soweto Student Uprising in 1976.
“By coincidence or design, this year we also commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Students Uprising in June 1976,” he added.