President Jacob Zuma has set out for a two-day state trip to Nigeria. Zuma’s visit is seen by many to be a strong move towards resuscitating the weak relationship between sub-Saharan Africa’s two biggest and most powerful states.
President Zuma’s visit was in response to the invitation by the Nigerian presidency and part of the key event that will take place from the day of his visit includes an address to the National Assembly in the capital, Abuja, and a meeting with the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum.
Though the South African presidency made not a mention of the main purpose of the meeting, many suspect that the massive fine imposed by Nigeria on South African telecoms giant MTN will be also discussed.
The political and economic ties between the two countries has been based on deep historical ties, dating back to the years of liberation struggles and the post apartheid era when late President Nelson Mandela, established bilateral relations with Nigeria through a structured Bi-National Commission (BNC) established in 1999.
The move was in recognition of Nigeria’s strong role in the struggle for liberation of apartheid South Africa, which accorded it a status of a front line state.
The Nigerian economy has been boosted by the business activities of South African owned companies. There are more than 120 South African companies doing business in Nigeria in various sectors, including telecommunications, aviation, tourism, banking, property, retail, entertainment and fast food.
But things turned out different. The relations between both countries deteriorated after the administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki.
The diplomatic relations became defined by rivalry for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council alongside South Africa’s maltreatment of Nigerians in that country.
Nigeria is South Africa’s key trading partner on the continent, providing significant opportunities for its exports and investments. The Country is ranked seventh in terms of South Africa’s total trade in Africa.
However, during the two-day visit, President Zuma is expected to address the Joint Session of the National Assembly of Nigeria and will together with President Mohammadu Buhari, address the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum.
Zuma will be accompanied on the visit by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, as well as a South African business delegation.
Observers see the presence of a strong ministerial delegation as a sign of a desire to resolve mutual complaints and possible deals to help Nigeria diversify its economy away from oil.
Further details on the events related to Zuma’s Visit will be updated later in the day.