In Praise of the Nigeria-South African Rapprochement,By Issa Aremu

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The point cannot be overstated that the realization of Agenda 2063 of the Africa Union (AU) depends on the leadership role of the two biggest economies on the continent, namely Nigeria and South Africa.  The   original concept note says:  “Agenda 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The genesis of Agenda 2063 was the realisation by African leaders that there was a need to refocus and reprioritise Africa’s agenda from the struggle against apartheid and the attainment of political independence for the continent which had been the focus of The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union; and instead to prioritise inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security amongst other issues aimed at repositioning Africa to becoming a dominant player in the global arena”. When vision 2063 was conceived Africans could not have imagined that xenophobic attacks  would become so addictive (2007 to 2019!) such that African leaders would again be refocusing on how to curtail the new apartheid (which xenophobia is) rather than pushing the frontiers of prosperity for the increasingly number of the poor people of a rich continent. It is against this background we must hail the recent proactive visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to South Africa between October 2 to 4, 2019. It is the scandalous lack of proactive engagement between Nigeria and South Africa over the years that is fueling the crisis of continental governance which has sadly degenerated into serial street wars of attrition between the poor people (note the poor, not the rich!)  of the continent. Nigeria and South Africa and indeed all Africans need cooperation not cut throat competition for Africa to develop. It is better late than never! Even though, President Buhari’s visit as well as the expected return visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa to Abuja had been  overshadowed by the pains of xenophobia, it is this continuous progressive engagement between Nigeria and South Africa that would deliver Vision 2063 for Africa. Godliness is some of  the highlights  of the elevated Bi-National Commission between Nigeria and South Africa as captured by the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu:.

Both leaders rightly damned  xenophobic violence and the reprisals. The solution to the poor on poor violence “lies in poverty eradication, jobs creation, crime prevention, observance of rule of law and lawful migration”. The two Presidents also directed their Foreign Affairs Ministers to give practical expression to the Early Warning Mechanism for prevention and monitoring platform.” Nigeria and South Africa also agreed to exchange a list of frequent travellers, notable business people and academics to facilitate the issuance of long term multiple entry visas for 10 years. This should be deepened further with people to people organized contacts. Both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)  and COSATU of South Africa should be incorporated in the new elevated BNC. Organized labour had robust and rewarding peaceful relationships in the two countries which governments of both countries must tap on . The two countries agreed to cooperate in geopolitical matters affecting the continent, on such matters of human rights, reform of the United Nations, migration and security issues, the fight against corruption and terrorism, nuclear disarmament and Western Sahara. They also agree to take “full advantage of the Nigerian Presidency of the UN General Assembly, currently led by Nigeria’s Permanent Representative, Professor Tijjani Mohammed Bande, and the South African Chairmanship of the Security Council for October, 2019, they agreed to push for the implementation of Resolution 2439 of the Security Council passed 2017, that called for a High Level Visit to the Lake Chad Basin.

The leaders of the two countries agreed to come closer on defence matters and counter terrorism; to intensify military training cooperation and share intelligence, and to work closely in areas of space technology and cyber security with expected Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment. The inaugural meeting of this council will hold in April in Abuja next year.

Presidents Buhari and Ramaphosa also tackled the knotty issue of market access. While South Africa is expected to re-submit the items they wish to have removed from Nigerian import prohibition list and want identified legal and regulatory difficulties facing businesses from their country in Nigeria removed, this country equally wants to have similar obstacles faced by Nigerian companies in changed or taken out altogether. Nigeria expressed commitment to open a trade office in South Africa.

Both countries noted the non-participation of Nigerian banks in South Africa and requested such banks to define their interests for determination by the relevant regulatory authorities in South Africa. We are told same  would apply to the aviation sector where the South African Airways has free air space in Nigeria but airlines here say they have difficulties accessing the South African air space. But the most significant take away is the repeated apologies of President Ramophosa for the unfortunate violence of the recent past and nostalgia of the old relations that defeated the most inhuman system of apartheid. Witness him : “We should never forget that our fellow Africans have contributed to the development of our economy and that of the region, and that South Africans are helping to develop economies across the continent.”  “We owe our freedom to Nigeria and spearheading the call for sanctions against the apartheid regime in the 70s and 80s following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960,” adding that “without Nigeria, freedom for South Africa would have come at a greater cost and a later date.”.

Issa Aremu mni

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