Emma Okonji in Johannesburg, South Africa
Programme Head, African Governance and Diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Mr. Steven Gruzd, has stressed the importance of strong institutions and committed government in building a stronger bilateral trade relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
Gruzd made the call this week in South Africa during the visit of the second cohort of MTN Media Innovation Fellows from Nigeria to the institute, in continuation of their training programme, sponsored by MTN Nigeria, in collaboration with the Pan African University (PAU) in Lagos.
According to Cruzd, politically strong and committed government from both countries, including strong institutions, will further strengthen the bilateral relationship that existed between both countries from 1999 to 2007 when Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki were presidents of Nigeria and South Africa respectively.
He said weak and uncommitted leadership eroded the bilateral relationship that existed between both countries and called for a re-visit of the Bi-National Commission that was formed in 1999, designed to strengthen trade relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
“Both Presidents, during their reigns, were involved in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), designed to strengthen trade relationship among African countries and to put Africa on sustainable development path. The commitment from both leaders, sustained the political and trade relationships between Nigeria and South Africa and such commitment on the path of government should be encouraged to foster stronger relationship between both countries in the areas of trade, visa travel document and cross-border financial transactions,” Gruzd said.
Fielding questions from Nigerian journalists, Gruzd said: “When bilateral relationship between both countries is strong, it will benefit citizens of Nigeria and South Africa, but when the relation is weak, it will adversely affect the well-being of the citizens of both countries.”
Gruzd, who spoke in details about the challenges faced in South Africa, said the issue of sporadic spread of Xenophobia in South Africa, affected businesses of foreign nationals living and doing businesses in South Africa, which included Nigerian traders. He called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to re-strategise in their policies in order to ensure free trade relationship and easy access to visa travel document, including unhindered cross-border financial transactions between Nigeria and South Africa.
He acknowledged the fact that Nigerians in South Africa are doing great businesses, but condemned the action of few Nigerians that are involved in criminal activities in South Africa.