- DTI director-general Tshediso Matona discusses trade opportunities between South Africa and Nigeria (Footage: Danie de Beer; Editing: Darlene Creamer) (2.31 MB)
South Africa and Nigeria, as the two leading economies on the African continent, had the responsibility to pull Africa out of poverty and political instability by forging broader economic cooperation, commented the governor of Nigeria's Imo state Chief Ikedi Ohakim during the Nigeria-South Africa Business Forum on Monday.
"Africa cannot afford to continue to wallow in instability. The world is not waiting for Africa. The world is moving fast away from us. The gap between Africa and the west is widening each day. Leaders can no longer hide behind their borders. So African leaders must keep step with the world," said Ohakim.
The South African Department of Trade and Industry's director-general Tshediso Matona agreed that the two countries had the responsibility and capacity to provide leadership to "revitalise" the African economy.
He noted that there was a trade imbalance between the two countries and that trade diversification was one area that required work.
South Africa had a growing presence in Nigeria in a number of sectors, including engineering, construction, aviation, media, oil and gas, exploration, hospitality, banking and retail.
Matona said South Africa would like to see growing trade and investment from Nigeria in South Africa. "Our economy is open to investors from Nigeria," he commented, adding that trade with Nigeria was part of a broad long-term strategy of government to link up with high-growth strategic partners on the continent.
Further, Matona appealed to Nigeria to look at the issues of protectionism, high levels of tariffs and trade barriers that impeded trade.
Matona stated that while Nigeria's trade policies seemed to be heading in the right direction, there were areas where the country could open up its trade to benefit the Nigerian economy further.
Meanwhile, Ohakim said that while Nigeria was the biggest oil and gas producer on the continent, and Africa had a bigger role to play in the international oil and gas arena, the continent had to deal with its political instability.
He explained that of the 53 African countries, only 16 were fully democratic, while only ten were peaceful.
Ohakim added that for every year a country achieved poor economic performance, it set that country's growth back by ten years. "We must invest in education and skills [development]," he noted, saying this was a key issue that needed to be addressed.
He noted that African countries could learn from South Africa, which he described as a first-world country in a third-world continent that had "aptly demonstrated that the difference between us and the rest of the world was not due to geographical location, but the determination to excel".
He concluded that if Nigeria were to reach the stability required to establish internal trade between the two countries, and if the new partnership for Africa's development, or Nepad, were to succeed, Nigeria and South Africa had to lead the way in economic cooperation.