The SA/Nigeria xenophobic fallout has deeply hurt SA’s relationship with its sister African nations, mostly Nigeria where the two are engaged in good trade relations.
The xenophobic violence in Gauteng sparked a diplomatic fracas between South Africa and other African Countries especially Nigeria. has been largely condemned by economists and business moguls from both countries, saying its consequences will be dire to the two nations.
According to a report by City press, captains of commerce and industry have warned of dire consequences for the continent as Africa’s two biggest economies intermittently fall out over violent attacks on foreigners in South Africa, especially on Nigerians.
The consequences were prevalent as South Africa-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce (SA-NCC) last week, held its board meeting where it raised concerns n how business are forced to bear heat of the SA-Nigeria xenophobic fallout.
“Every time there are attacks on foreigners in South Africa – and unfortunately it has not been a one-off problem – the most exposed group in terms of either potential retaliatory attacks or hardening attitudes to South Africa in general is South African businesses,” said Dianna Games, SA-NCC executive director, who added that the consequences are not only borne only by mall businesses that have been looted or destroyed in Gauteng, but also South African multinationals in Nigeria and beyond.
Dianna further pointed out that multinationals were the most visible face of the country elsewhere on the continent, particularly companies with consumer-facing businesses. Therefore, any form of hostility have the potentials of affecting business relationships.
“South Africans are generally made to feel welcome in Nigeria. Their companies are popular employers.
“The two countries are not just important trading partners, people in both countries employ nationals of other African countries. Creating hostility just undermines all the potential benefits of these relationships” she said while nothing that Nigeria stands as one of the biggest suppliers of crude oil to South Africa, which puts the trade balance with South Africa in Nigeria’s favour.
The Nigerian government has twice over the last 10 days summoned South Africa’s High Commissioner, Lulu Mnguni to kick against the continued xenophobia. And Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, has called on the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) to intervene in the SA-Nigeria xenophobic fallout.
AU’s interventions on the SA-Nigeria xenophobic fallout is however described as a huge embarrassment for South Africa whose government has been accused of not taking serious measures against the protests.
City Press reported that in the midst of the diplomatic row, South Africa-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce (SA-NCC) has been in contact with the diplomatic missions in both countries to express concerns on behalf of its members as it further accused the SA government of failing to quickly address the issue before it went out of hands, leading to destruction of lives and properties.
“The outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa and the reprisal events in Nigeria‚ including direct attacks on foreign-owned businesses in both South Africa and Nigeria‚ poses a threat to Africa’s fragile economic recovery‚” said SA-NCC President Suresh Chaytoo.
There has been a long-term positive trade relationship between Nigeria and South Africa that has benefits for both‚ as both markets provide jobs where companies are invested.
Total trade between South Africa and Nigeria has risen from R174 million in 1999 to almost R3 billion in 2008 and R66 billion in 2014. The trade balance is significantly in favour of Nigeria‚ a main exporter of crude oil to Pretoria‚ with the value of exports to South Africa reaching R38.5 billion in 2015‚ according to SA-NCC.
A development economics expert at the Lagos Business School, Adi Bongo, has however, warned that while Nigerians had in the past, turned the other cheek, alleged complicity by law enforcers in South Africa had incited reprisals against South African firms lately.
“Barbaric as this may sound in a purportedly modern economy such as that of South Africa, we see this as a manifestation of the failure of leadership characteristic of the current political elite in South Africa today.
“It is obvious President Jacob Zuma’s leadership has failed to produce dividends for the larger majority of black South Africans who are now inclined to take out their frustration on hapless foreigners.”
Bongo spoke as Nigerian students threatened South African businesses operating in Nigeria, while that country’s Senate dispatched a delegation to South Africa.
“It is important that things are brought under control in South Africa. Otherwise, reprisal attacks and a boycott of South African businesses in Nigeria might be the consequence,” he warned.
Acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, also warned while presenting the SA crimes statistics on Friday, that no amount of anger or emotions in society should encourage lawlessness and people taking the law into their own hands.