Diplomatic relations between Africa’s two largest economies have been strained further by continuing xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, forcing Nigeria to recall its envoy in protest of slow handling of the chaos.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that Nigeria had summoned its ambassador to South Africa as discontent grew across the continent over Pretoria’s inaction to stop attacks on African immigrants working in the country.
The attacks, that started three weeks ago after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini incited locals against foreigners, has already killed seven people.
In a statement by the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, said the west African government was summoning its senior diplomats in South Africa for “for consultation”.
“The invitation is in connection with the ongoing xenophobia in South Africa targeting foreigners, mainly African migrants,” it added.
Last week, Nigeria issued an ultimatum to the South African embassy in Lagos to stop the violence within 48 hour or else the Muhammud Buhari-led government will be forced to shut down all South African businesses in the west African country.
This was the second time in less than 12 month that Nigeria has threatened to send South African firms packing.
In September last year, after the South African government seized $15 million cash belonging to Nigeria claiming they were funds meant for illegal purchase of arms, the Nigerian government threatened to shutdown South African entities operating in the country. The matter has not been resolved to date.
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The South African government was also not happy when it emerged earlier this year that the west African nation was recruiting former apartheid soldiers as mercenaries in its fight against the Boko Haram terror group.
Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa with a population of over 170 million people, is one of the largest regional market that South African companies like the MTN Group, Shoprite, Pick-n-Pay, MultiChoice and Standard Bank have expanded to as the economy back home slows down.
According to an International Monetary Fund forecast, Nigeria’s economy could grow by up to 10 percent in the next two years despite its main revenue earner oil prices declining globally, while South Africa’s will only rise marginally as it struggles with labor unrest and electricity problems caused by an aging grid.
South Africa hopes that with a new government in place it may be able to iron out these issues with Nigeria and maintain “a strong bond of friendship and bilateral relations with Nigeria”, the country’s department of international relations said in a statement.