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Opening remarks by President Ramaphosa during official talks during the state visit and 10th session of the Binational Commission between South Africa and Nigeria

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Your Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari,
Honourable Ministers,
High Commissioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Allow me to begin by thanking you, Your Excellency, for warmly welcoming us to Abuja. 
I last visited Abuja in July 2018, when we committed to strengthen relations between our two countries.
I can say with confidence that in the intervening three years we have made substantial progress.
I wish to thank our Ministers and senior officials who have been working hard to ensure this 10th session of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission is a success. 
In October 2019, we convened our first session of the BNC at Heads of State level, where our respective Ministers and officials produced solid plans and programmes of action for our two countries.
Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major setback, and much of what we hoped to achieve has had to be revised. 
This BNC, therefore, is an opportunity to recover lost ground and to take stock of what we have done and what still needs to be done. 
As we meet today, we have noted the announcements by several countries to institute travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in our region as a result of the discovery by our scientist of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. 
The latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker. 
Excellent  science should be applauded and not punished. 
Whilst we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise.  
Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business. It is our hope that the countries that have imposed these bans urgently reconsider their decisions.
President Buhari, we applaud you for the solidarity you and your government have extended to South Africa in this regard, and our presence here today is proof of this.
It affirms once again that relations between our two countries are on a positive trajectory and that we must continue to build on this.
We are particularly keen to reflect on the progress we have made in our economic cooperation and to identify new projects.
Similarly, we have to look at opportunities for deepening our cooperation around the management of COVID-19.
President Buhari and I look forward to receiving the report with its different workstreams: from that of the political and consular working group ; to trade, industry and investment; to minerals and energy; the social sector; and security and defence. 
It is pleasing to note that during this BNC our two countries will be signing an agreements of co-operation on youth development and on Audio Visual co-production and a Programme of Co-operation for the implementation of the agreement on cooperation in the field of arts and culture.
A number of other agreements and MOUs such as Political  Consultation, and  Early Warning Mechanisms are also in the process of being finalized once the legal processes have been concluded.
I want to commend our Minsters for this progress despite the difficult circumstances under which they have been operating.
We look forward to the formal signing of these agreements and  we are optimistic about the opportunities that these agreements will bring to our people. 
They must contribute to improving lives and livelihoods, create jobs and lead to the eradication of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.
This means we have a formidable task ahead of us.
 President Buhari and I had the pleasure to launch the South Africa-Nigeria Youth Dialogue on the virtual platform. We recognise too the launch of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment by our respective Ministers.
The Youth Dialogue will provide an opportunity for the youth of our two countries to engage on issues that affect them, and on what role young people can play in national development.
The Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment will give renewed impetus to trade and investment partnerships. 
It will be a strategic vehicle to drive innovation in trade and investment in response to technological advances brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 
In our previous BNC, President Buhari and I committed to create an enabling environment for doing business in our respective countries. 
We also tasked our respective officials with identifying key sectors for investment that will boost economic growth and development.
Through this newly established Council we hope our objectives will be achieved. 
South Africa remains committed to strengthening relations with our sister country Nigeria, a great friend and ally who stood by us during our struggle for liberation.
I look forward to fruitful engagements around issues of climate change and the reform of institutions of global governance such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. 
During our last engagement in Pretoria, we discussed regional, continental and international peace and security challenges. 
We noted with concern the continued instability and conflict in some parts of the continent, and in particular the threat of terrorism and extremism.
Peace, stability, democracy and good governance are key tenets of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and are central to our bilateral agenda.
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area holds tremendous potential for our two economies. 
The recent Intra-African Trade Fair hosted in Durban, South Africa, was a clear demonstration of the AU’s commitment to ensure the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. 
I wish to thank you, Your Excellency, for honouring my invitation to attend the Trade Fair. 
I wish to thank the Nigerian business community for a strong showing at this important continental event. 
I hope that many deals were signed and many partnerships built.
The strongest partnerships are those that have overcome difficulties. 
It is testimony to the strength of relations between Nigeria and South Africa that having overcome many challenges together, our partnership is stronger than ever.
I am confident this BNC will be a resounding success.
I thank you.