By Mustapha Kurfi
Nigeria and South Africa are two of the largest nations on the African continent, with different historical antecedents yet sharing multiple attributes of post-colonial state. While Nigeria has a population of about 150 million people, South Africa has about 50 million; Nigeria underwent the Civil war while South Africa witnessed the apartheid regime. The struggle for independence and the fight against apartheid were causes that African nations, Nigeria at the forefront, took upon themselves as the clarion call to obey. Both Nigeria and South Africa are countries that have had many things that bind their bilateral relations together including the long-lasting relationship between the leaders of the both countries, like Obasanjo and Mbeki as well as Yar Adua and Zuma in recent times. Another prominent example is in the area of telecommunications, where MTN – a company proudly owned by South African merchants – takes the lead as the largest service provider in Nigeria.
A Daily Trust article (July 24th 2009) reported on the interest of the South African based firm – Portfolio Pharmaceuticals Limited – in investing in Nigeria to set up a Paracetamol Powder industry. This investment would make Nigeria the second leading producer of the powder in Africa. Speaking in Abuja during a visit to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) led by the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Buba Marwa, the Chief Executive Officer of the company Dr. Desai said Paracetamol is the largest single drug in the world. He added, “Our plan is to manufacture Paracetamol powder in Nigeria and sell it to the drug manufacturers in the country. Nigeria has about 30-40 companies producing the tablet but they buy the powder from China, India and Europe.” The Portfolio Pharmaceuticals’ production capacity will be between 100-200 tons per month, and it hopes to meet up with the Nigerian demand as well export the product to other African countries. It is important for this project to succeed as there is a future plan to bring in equipment that will expand to the manufacturing of anti-malaria, tuberculosis and diabetic drugs. This will go a long way in strengthening the bilateral relationship between the countries, providing job opportunities to curb the unemployment rate, improving professionalism in the pharmaceutical industries and curtailing the cost of importing drugs among other things.
The Nigerian Tribune (18th March 2009) published an article titled “NTDC to Partner with S/Africa” In this article, the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr. Otunba Olusegun Runsewe stressed the need for Nigeria and South Africa to collaborate on tourism development. The NTDC helmsman in Abuja led his management team on a courtesy visit to the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Mamabola. Mr. Runsewe told the High Commissioner that “the visit was necessary considering the long standing relationship between Nigeria and South Africa and the need to explore the three aspects of tourism such as Eco tourism, sports and conference tourism which both countries are endowed with.” In addition, the visit is an opportunity to meet with the crème de la crème of South Africa tourism and would open up another opportunity for development. The diplomatic network is very important considering South Africa as one of the very strong tourism countries in Africa for the proposed tour. It is important and relevant to ask, how can the World Cup of next year hosted by South Africa begin the first step to achieving these three objectives?
Both Nigeria and South Africa are football-loving countries, and Nigeria has the highest number of Africans in the European League. It is hoped that Nigeria would be one of the countries carrying Africa’s pride in the World’s greatest soccer tournament. Considering the xenophobic attacks in which Africans (a large number being Nigerians and Zimbabweans) were victims, how do Nigerians perceive South Africa as the host of the event? Have those wounds caused by the xenophobic attacks been healed? Both countries could synergize in diverse areas of mutual benefits, considering their strength in Africa. With Nigeria being the largest economy in West Africa and South Africa being the largest economy in the continent; both nations would be vastly improved as well Africa as a whole through such a collaboration.
The World Cup provides a spectacular opportunity for these two nations to join hands in displaying Africa’s diversity. Cooperation between these nations is not limited to football only as Mr. Runsewe mentioned that there were 30 golf courses in Johannesburg alone and that NTDC hosted golfers last year in Abuja as part of its efforts to promote the game, adding that, “basically, we believe we can work together. These relations are even more important at this time as South Africa is still mending the wounds of the xenophobic attacks previously mentioned. Admittedly, the root cause of the xenophobic attacks by South Africans was poverty, can tourism mend these relations?
How can Africans at large regain the confidence they had prior to then xenophobic attack? Can the World cup serve as a convenient ground to accommodate and deal with xenophobia, especially on the minds of the victims and their fellow citizens? What more do governments of these nations need to do to further strengthen their relationships, especially during the World cup tournament? What is the role of the civil society in ensuring peaceful co-existence before, during, and after the tournament vis-à-vis the xenophobic attack?