South Africa and Nigeria, yesterday, signed 30 trade and cooperation agreements weeks after a wave of violence against Nigerian nationals in Johannesburg and Pretoria strained relations between Africa’s top two economies.
Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Muhammadu Buhari, at the conclusion of a two-day visit by the Nigerian leader, said they regretted the violence and subsequent retaliation in Nigeria against South African businesses, pledging instead to deepen trade ties.
The duo vowed to put an end to xenophobic attacks and reprisals in South Africa and Nigeria, respectively.
In September, armed mobs attacked businesses and homes owned by foreigners, leading to at least 10 deaths, dozens of injuries and up to 400 arrests.
In response, Nigeria repatriated around 600 of its citizens living in South Africa.
The local units of South African telecoms company MTN and supermarket chain Shoprite closed all stores and service centres in Nigeria after their premises were attacked by Nigerians protesting against attacks on their compatriots in South Africa.
“As the government of South Africa, we have expressed our deep regrets at the attacks directed at foreign nationals and our condemnation of all forms of intolerance and acts of violence,” Mr Ramaphosa told reporters.
He said the two countries had sealed 32 bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding covering trade and industry, science and technology, defence, agriculture and energy.
Nigeria accounts for 64 per cent of South Africa’s total trade with the West African sub-region and is one of its largest trading partners on the continent.
Mr Buhari said, beyond the economic partnership, the anti-foreigner violence had to be addressed quickly.
“We decided to take concrete measures to prevent the recurrence of such unacceptable incidents in the future,” Buhari said.
In a joint communique issued on the state visit of Buhari to South Africa and the inaugural session of the elevated Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission in Pretoria, Buhari and Ramaphosa reviewed a wide range of bilateral, continental and global issues of common interest.
They acknowledged the historical and strategic relations that exist between the two countries, even as they took note of the need to further strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation.
Buhari and Ramaphosa hailed the continued exchange of high-level visits and meetings between the two countries, recalling the successful working visit of Ramaphosa to Nigeria in July 2018, during which the two heads of state reaffirmed their collective desire and commitment to enhance political, economic and social relations between the two countries.
They appreciated the vast nature of the two countries’ bilateral cooperation, which covers, among others: trade and investment, energy, mining, defence and security issues, justice, police, immigration, tourism, environment, education, transport as well as science and technology.
Buhari and Ramaphosa also took note of the 32 signed agreements and MoU and committed themselves to ensuring that those that are in force are fully implemented, while those not yet in force are revived for implementation.
They also commended the economic cooperation between the two republics and welcomed the steps to increase trade volumes as well as private sector investments.
“Ramaphosa used the opportunity of the meeting to brief Buhari on the recent incidents of violence in South Africa affecting foreign nationals. He also alluded to the fact that these unfortunate incidents are not consistent with the values and principles underpinning South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
“Ramaphosa also dispelled the notion that incidents of violence affecting foreign nationals were targeted at Nigerian nationals, as other foreign nationals and indeed, South Africans were affected as well. He assured that the South African government was fully in control of the situation and several interventions, including engagements with diplomatic community and émigré communities, security operations, policy and legislation reviews were underway.
“Both presidents strongly condemned the attacks against foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, and the reprisal actions against South Africans and their interests in Nigeria.”
The two presidents also endorsed the reestablishment of the Republic of South Africa and the Federal Republic of Nigeria consular Forum to meet twice a year.