Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe during a Business Roundtable at the South Africa-Nigeria BNC Celebrations, 13-15 November 2009
14 November 2009Your Excellency Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan;
His Excellency, the South African High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Mamabolo;
His Excellency, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa, Gen. Marwa;
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers both from South Africa and Nigeria;
Honourable Governors of States;
Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Captains of Industry;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
Permit me first to express our profound gratitude for the privilege accorded us to address this very important gathering of business dignitaries from The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of South Africa. The agreement to convene this Business Roundtable Meeting as an integral part of the joint festivities to mark 10 years of the launch of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) underscores the value we attach to the role of our private sectors as key pillars of the strategic partnership that exists between our two countries.
Your Excellency, Vice President Dr Jonathan Goodluck and esteemed guests,
Lest we forget, our decision to opt for a strategic alliance was impelled by the need to collaboratively work towards our common developmental goals of growing our respective economies so as to create decent employment, fight poverty and inequality and generally ensure better lives for our peoples.
In this regard, the Agreed Minutes of the Inaugural Session of the Joint Commission between our two countries stipulated that the primary objective of the BNC was to lay a firm basis for mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership in line with the broader vision of the renewal of the African continent.
Guided by the very lofty developmental objectives of the continent, which indeed mirror those of our own countries and peoples, we have over the past ten years sought to accelerate the pace of our efforts by establishing a Bi-National Commission.
No one can doubt the critical role that our business enterprises have played in the pursuit of our socio-economic goals. The scope of engagement of our respective private sectors spans across such crucial areas as energy, telecommunications, banking, construction, hospitality, retail and so on.
The success we have registered in boosting mutual trade and investment is borne out by the very modest but impressive trade figures. Since the launch of the BNC in trade between our countries has leapt from $16.5 million in 1999 to $2.1 billion in 2008. Yet, Ladies and Gentleman we should all admit that we can do more if we redouble our efforts.
There are still many trade opportunities between our countries which remain largely untapped. For example, we have learnt from the Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economic Study that has just been released that construction growth in Nigeria will be the fastest of all markets in the next 10 years.
The study says infrastructure construction is set to grow in emerging markets by 128 percent from now to 2020, compared with 18 percent over the same period in developed countries. For us as a developing nation that has embarked on massive infrastructure development occasioned by, amongst others, South Africa hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup, these forecasts are already coming true. The forecasts about construction growth in Nigeria and what we are currently witnessing in South Africa in this area of activity demonstrate the existence of permanent and strategic business and government-to-government interests between our two countries.
We note that the balance of trade is skewed in favour of Nigeria because of the amount of oil South Africa imports from Nigeria. We would like to bring parity to this area by improving the trade flows between our two countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the achievements of the BNC since its establishment.
Regarding Justice and Constitutional Development, on 13 March 2003, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, in terms of the Advocates Act 74 of 1964, designated Nigeria so that Nigerian lawyers can practice in South Africa. We eagerly await the finalization of a reciprocal designation of South African lawyers to practise in Nigeria.
On Tourism, an agreement was signed in May 2008. The following achievements have since been documented:
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Nigerian Travel and Tour operators to jointly promote South Africa and Nigeria. This campaign was undertaken from 2008 to March 2009. Nigerian story tellers were invited to South Africa to promote Nigerian cultural history and Joint Committee meetings have been held in both countries as per the MoU.
In relation to Education, institutional relations have been established. For example, there is ongoing collaboration between the University of South Africa and the National Open University of Nigeria. Our Department of Education has facilitated the acquisition of work permits for Nigerian academics to lecture in our tertiary institutions.
Our academics and tertiary institutions have over the past few years hosted a number of public lectures addressed by some of Nigeria’s noble sons such as Professors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. The contribution made by Professor Wole Soyinka in a South African published book – The Meaning of Mandela – which seeks to reflect on the public meaning of Nelson Mandela, is a demonstration of the intellectual collaboration that we must encourage between our two countries.
A Joint Technical Education Committee has been established to monitor progress in the implementation of educational agreements.
There is ongoing joint participation in educational sharing conferences under the Commonwealth and the African Union Commission.
On Health matters, there have been exchanges of policy documents and legislation in the area of traditional medicine. Work in this regard is continuing. In 2007, there were exchanges of missions, especially in the area of local production of herbal medicines and the transfer of medical technology. In the same year (2007), South Africa donated 1.7 million Polio vaccines to Nigeria. Since the establishment of the BNC we provided training on drug information for Nigerian health practitioners.
In the Oil, Energy and Gas Sector, our state-owned entity PetroSA has been operating partnership with MONI PULO (a Nigerian indigenous company). PetroSA was also awarded a contract by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to lift crude from Nigeria.
Our power utility, Eskom, has assisted the former National Electric Power Authority of Nigeria in the rehabilitation and repair of transmission transformers and setting them back to location.
Regarding Trade and Industry, a Bilateral Trade Agreement and a reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments Agreement are in place. The increase in trade flows between the two countries that I mentioned earlier can be attributed to, amongst others, the existence of these agreements.
We commend the Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce (NSACC) for the role it is playing in the relationship between business people from both our countries. The business relationship between Nigeria and South Africa is full of opportunities as witnessed by the success recorded so far by South African companies doing business here in Nigeria.
We are seeing entry of Nigerian-based companies into South Africa, the highlight, of course, being the listing of Oando Nigeria on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the investment by Dangote Group in our cement industry for a record $378 million. At a private business level, we are seeing some of Nigeria’s successful business people partnering with their South African counterparts. We would like to see more of such partnerships and more of Nigerian businesses coming into South Africa.
On Immigration matters, since 1999 there has been an increase to South Africa of visitors of Nigerian nationality from approximately 10 065 to 49 020 in 2008. We had expected to sign, during this visit, an Immigration Agreement with Nigeria but due to delays occasioned by South Africa’s overall review of its immigration policy, this has, regrettably, had to be deferred.
However, in keeping with our commitment to ease immigration between Nigeria and South Africa, our Government has in the interim made provision for three (3) year Multiple-Entry Visas for holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which will be implemented with immediate effect, while giving time for the completion of the review process.
Going forward, we have jointly identified flagship projects which we must implement in the next five years. The concept of the flagship projects was borne out of a realization by both countries that there needs to be tangible outcomes that will define our bilateral relations. This will accelerate the pace of implementation of the signed agreements and enrich the quality of work done in support of the BNC.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our ability to achieve all the developmental goals that we have set for ourselves are threatened by the numerous challenges that confront the economies of many developing countries in our regional economic communities. The challenges include the global financial and economic crisis and poor infrastructure which inevitably undermine intra-Africa and intra-regional trade.
The strategic partnership between Nigeria and South Africa accords us the possibility of jointly formulating appropriate responses to these challenges. Among other things, our interventions should enable us to mitigate the decline of our key industrial sectors while seeking to seize opportunities that have been thrown up by the world economic decline.
In this context, I wish to remind our business people that the African Union, through its development programme NEPAD, recognises agriculture as a backbone of many African economies and that it has the potential to contribute to development on a scale much larger than other sectors.
Consequently, it seems appropriate that we should expect that you who are gathered here will respond to this imperative and to the construction growth forecasts I spoke about earlier. I am sure I express the same sentiments as our Nigerian friends when I say both our governments stand ready to support all of your efforts to be equal to this task.
We believe that it is critically important for the private sectors of our respective countries to be always mindful of their strategic importance in the pursuit of the developmental goals that we have referred to.
Therefore, it will be necessary for Nigerian and South African business people to accelerate their partnerships and joint ventures in order to maximise benefits that will accrue from such collaboration.
Trade and investment between South Africa and Nigeria, though it has grown rapidly in the last few years, has in the larger scheme of things, just started to scratch the surface of what it could be. As South Africa, we look forward to working with Nigerian businesses to open up trade opportunities and allow investment to grow between the two countries. In this regard, we are committed to strengthening our trade missions in our respective High Commissions.
We consider Nigeria as a very important partner on the African continent in pursuing the vision of an Africa renewal, a vision we know is equally shared by Nigeria. Both Nigeria and South Africa can serve as a catalyst to pull various continental processes together for the achievement of Africa’s strategic political and economic objectives. Business has a role to play in this regard and we are confident that you who gathered here today will be equal to that task.
I thank you!