“We had a wonderful exchange and we both got a sense that we are opening a new page in the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria and this new page gives us opportunity to go beyond where we have been before in a number of areas.”
These were the words of the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa when he spoke to news men at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Nigeria, shortly after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ramaphosa said that the two of them agreed that Nigeria and South Africa should pursue what he called ‘Africa focused foreign policy.’
Since I took over office this is the first visit that I am undertaking beyond the borders of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries in our region, in the southern part of our continent. It is an important visit for us.
He added that in pursuing such African focused foreign policy, they would deepen the relationship between them, “seeing that Nigeria is the most populous country on the whole continent whose economy is the largest on our continent.
“It is important that South Africa and Nigeria should develop and deepen the relationships between them: deepen them at a people to people level and also at an economy level and of course, underpinned by good political relations between the two countries.
“At an economy level, our various companies from South Africa are already business here and in a number of ways are diplomats of our country.
“At the political level, we took time during our discussions to thank the people of Nigeria and the leadership of Nigeria over the many years for the support they gave to our struggle.
“Today, we are a free and independent country and this is largely due to the support that we got from a number of countries around the world but more especially on the African continent.
“Nigeria which is six hours away from South Africa was proudly regarded as a front line state because it was really at the frontline of our titanic struggle against apartheid. Nigeria and indeed Nigerians never flinched for a minute in support of our struggle. In fact Nigerians even took it a little further; President Buhari related that Nigerians through their households contributed money into the Organization of African Union Fund to support the struggle against apartheid.
“So, I took time to thank President Buhari and Nigerians for the support that we received during our struggle.
“We also had time of course to reconfirm that we do want to deepen the relations between the two countries. To this end, we are going to focus on the Bi-National Commission that was set up between our two countries and make sure that the place where it is elevated to at the president level, is where the action should happen.
“We will expect our officials to do the technical part of a number of things and our ministers to work on the various areas where we need to deepen our cooperation through agreements. And that when President Buhari and I meet, we will then be able to either sign off or to ensure that implementation happens.
“In this regard, we will like to have our next Bi-National Commission in South Africa. I have invited President Buhari to come for a state visit later this year when our Bi-National Commission will then take place.
“We also exchange views on a number of important economic matters, particularly with regards to the oil industry and how South Africa can be part of this whole process. We will also exchange views on how to deepen trade between our two countries and a number of other areas.
“So, all in all we had a wonderful exchange and we both got a sense that we are now opening a new page in the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria and this new page gives us the opportunity to go beyond where we have been before and find a number of areas we can reached agreements and on this regard make sure that the benefits that should accrue to our people is actually bountiful, particularly in the area of opening up of the African continent through the Free Trade Agreement and we will be able to ensure that our economies grow by leaps and bound.
“So, a new page has been opened and we are delighted as presidents, ministers and our officials that we are at the right place at the right time to extend the relationship between nigeria and South Africa to a higher level.” [myad]