President Muhammadu Buhari says a strong strategic relationship between Nigeria and South Africa can become the engine for the rapid economic, political, social, cultural development of Africa, thereby delivering ‘the Africa we want’.
The Nigerian leader stated this at State Banquet organised in his honour by the South African government on the occasion of his three-day official visit to South Africa on Thursday night in Pretoria.
According to him, the building blocks for the Africa we want are being systematically put in place, thanks to the political will of African leaders over many years.
”The process began with the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) on July 9, 2002. A key objective of this transformation was to have a union of the peoples of Africa rather than a unity of African leaders,” he said.
The president noted that under the former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma, African Heads of State and Government signed the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the formation of the OAU/AU in May 2013.
Buhari said the Declaration marked the re-dedication of Africa towards the attainment of the Pan-African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
”Agenda 2063 is the concrete manifestation of how the continent intends to achieve this Vision within a 50-year period from 2013 to 2063.
”Agenda 2063 encapsulates not only Africa’s aspirations for the future but also identifies key Programmes, which can boost Africa’s economic growth and development and lead to the rapid transformation of the continent.
According to him, it is in this context that a number of flagship projects, which represent building blocks towards the Africa we want, were launched.
He cited some of the flagship projects to include: Establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); The African Passport and Free Movement of People and Establishment of a Single African Air-Transport Market ( SAATM).
The Nigerian leader also observed that before Agenda 2063, there was ‘The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).’
NEPAD was an initiative of the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) that came into being in 2001 with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal and Algeria as its sponsors.
”I have highlighted these two landmark initiatives to show that Nigeria and South Africa not only share the same vision for Africa and its peoples but have been close partners in the formulation and implementation of this vision,” he added.
President Buhari also went further back in recent history, during the dark days of the fight against apartheid, saying ”Nigeria was formally designated a Frontline State, notwithstanding the fact that we were not geographically in Southern Africa”.
He opined that this was rather in recognition of the political, human and material support and sacrifices of the Nigerian Government and people.
He maintained that Nigerian workers, students and the Government made great contributions and stood shoulder to shoulder with the peoples of Southern Africa in their struggles against colonialism and apartheid.
”We hosted several South African students in our universities, including for a while, Teboho “Tsietsi” MacDonald Mashinini of the Soweto uprising fame. Nigerian students and workers contributed money from their salaries and stipends for the cause of Southern African liberation.
”In 1979, Nigeria nationalized Britain’s shareholding in British Petroleum Nigeria for, among other reasons, doing business with the apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as its policies in the then Rhodesia, which had a serious adverse effect on British economy.
”We in Nigeria are very proud that we stood with the people of Southern Africa in their hour of need. As they say, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
”We are also very proud that together with South Africa and other African countries, as brothers and partners, we are today charting an exciting new path towards the Africa we want,” he said.
On the high-level Bi-National Commission, President Buhari described the Commission as an important framework for Nigeria and South Africa to institutionalize their partnership and to address concretely every aspect of that relationship.
He further observed: ”As the two largest economies on the continent, there are many areas in which we can share experiences, invest and cooperate.
“Ours is a relationship full of potential and promise and this can only be a win-win for our peoples and for Africa at large.
”The Bi-National Commission will also make it easier for us to keep on the same page as we march forward, hand in hand, as one people with a shared vision and one destiny.”
While expressing appreciation for what he described as ‘legendary South African hospitality’, President Buhari invited President Ramaphosa to pay a state visit to Nigeria for ”a return match where we as the Super Eagles will surely revenge against you the Bafana Bafana!”
”Mr President and dear brother, as I said, you have overwhelmed me and my delegation with your legendary South African hospitality.”(NAN)