Strengthening Ties In A Complicated Relationship: Nigerian State Visit to South Africa

Strengthening Ties In A Complicated Relationship: Nigerian State Visit to South Africa

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

From Business Day Live

Nigerians complain about difficulties getting Visas to visit South Africa. South Africans complain about alleged Nigerian drug dealers and fraud. Despite their differences, the Nigerian president visited South Africa Monday for the first time since 2009 to talk about trade in what is becoming an increasingly competitive business relationship.

The arrival of Nigeria’s president in South Africa on Monday for the first Nigerian state visit since 2009 is an important symbolic development in the relationship between two of Africa’s most important countries. The intention behind this visit, and that of our president to Abuja recently, is clear. The states need to leverage their collective strength for the good of the continent and themselves, and tackle the issues that divide them.

The relationship is complicated. It is often described as being simultaneously co-operative and competitive. Unspoken rivalry about continental leadership bedevils relations. South Africa’s role of being Africa’s voice in international blocs has served only to rile Nigeria and South Africa’s attempt to leverage its Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) membership to gain favour in Africa has not impressed the Nigerians.

Commentators are quick to seize on issues that raise areas of competitiveness. One relates to the size of the economies. The rebasing of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 1990 to 2008 brings it much closer to South Africa’s GDP. At growth rates of about 7% a year, analysts predict Nigeria will soon overtake South Africa. The prospect of being a bigger economy than South Africa is a source of great delight to Nigeria, going by commentary on the issue.

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