One year after Xenophobic Attacks: Strengthening Bilateral Relations between Nigeria and South Africa through Tourism

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?

3 Responses to One year after Xenophobic Attacks: Strengthening Bilateral Relations between Nigeria and South Africa through Tourism

  1. Indeed as Africans we hope that the World Cup will not only act as a unifying factor but also that it will provide opportunities for sustainable development through the continent. We hope that opportunities will be provided to curb out one of the root causes of the xenophobic attacks which was poverty. Among Mustapha questions is, "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?"We only hope that it can, and if not, then maybe it may be the stepping stone to fulfilling this objective.

    Professor Francis Nyamnjoh in his book "Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and xenophobia in contemporary Southern Africa" states that one of the paradoxes of globalization is that in as much as it is a process that provides free and accelerated flows, with it also comes with accelerated closures and exclusions. While boundaries are dissolved, borders are closed. Nyamnjoh argues that globalization has brought about an even greater feeling or need of citizenship and belonging, which in turn has fueled xenophobic attacks and other intolerances. The greater part of these negative sentiments have been fueled towards the poor; those who struggle for resources. Whilst doors are opened with investment capital and skills, they are also shut for those with limited skills, who have in turn left their countries to look for survival pastures elsewhere.

    How can the World Cup then serve to deal with xenophobia? My thoughts are that as with anything that is everlasting, it needs to start from the bottom up. Opportunities need to be provided to the poor, so that they themselves can have a reasonable stake in the economy. Those workers that were on strike need to have their lives transformed so that when foreigners come they do not feel threatened. Those meetings with the ‘crème de la crème’ of South African tourism need to also benefit the ordinary nationals. The South African pie needs to be divided (almost) equally. Of course the World Cup cannot achieve all this, but it can be an agent!

  2. Well written article my brother!!! I commend you for your observation…The xenophobia crisis should have offered our "leaders" a platform to discuss the plight of marginalized blacks in South Africa. The World Cup will come and go with people still suffering with no economic empowerment. Such events should be used to save the affected low of the lowest class and transcend xenophobia stereotypes. Vendors cannot even have stalls outside the stadium to sell vegetables, meet, pap, beverages, ice-blocks,etc. Now you are taking away business from the low class meaning those with means will make a killing in their well catered shops in the surrounding areas. Honestly leadership is a creative endeavor often flows from unplanned moments and crises. Instead of parliamentarians seizing the moment and work on policies to empower citizens beyond 2010, they are busy warming seats in parliament.

  3. in reading this article and the comments i can't help but think of William Gumede, the author of the controversial book "Thabo Mbeki and the struggle for the soul of the ANC." Gumede famously diagnosed South Africa's affirmative action as "Cappuccino' empowerment" Gumede states that now in South Africa "it is not just a few whites at the top, but a handful of new blacks joining them. This is ‘cappuccino’ empowerment — white foam sprinkled with chocolate.”

    classic i thought!! when the xenophobic attacks started last year i was an intern at a particular research institute in Pretoria, South Africa. Sharing a room with three other interns from Cameroon, Burundi and the DRC. I was so ashamed of what was happening as i kept saying to my friends that South Africans are not like this the problems are fundamentally economic. i remember one of my collegues who realised to our approval that she was safe because she could pass as a "Coloured" South African. which reminded me of the stories of how the Xhosa people from the Eastern Cape province moved to Cape Town in search of work, i remember the stories about the tension that existed between the so called 'Coloureds' and the Xhosas. As the Coloured population accused the Xhosas of coming to take their jobs. i've had similar stories of xenophobic attacks in Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon and several other African countries. my point?

    like the tension that exists in the UK between British locals and the Eastern Europeans immigrants, this problem is a global problem which will unfortunately be excebated in African countries because of the fact that the poverty is that much worse… we should not be ordering a cappuccino, but hot chocolate creamed in pan-Africanism!!

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