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The Nigeria/South Africa free trade area proposed by the BNC in March 2002 could be revived to remove high tariff and non-tariff barriers that inhibit intra-African trade. A political commitment should be made to create a free trade area between ECOWAS and SADC in the long term, and a trade corridor between the two subregions in the medium term, in order to promote regional integration and socio-economic development across Africa.
The Eagle and the Springbok: strengthening the Nigeria/South Africa relationship
The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, South Africa, hosted a policy advisory group meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, from 9 to 10 June 2012, on “The Eagle and the Springbok: Strengthening the Nigeria/South Africa Relationship”. The following ten key policy recommendations emerged from the Lagos policy advisory group seminar:
1. Strong mechanisms to institutionalise the strategic partnership between Nigeria and South Africa, such as an active Bi-National Commission with an effective implementation and monitoring mechanism, need to be fostered. The establishment of focal points at the countries’ missions in Abuja and Tshwane, and regular consultation at the level of permanent secretary and directorgeneral could aid the BNC’s efforts. High commissioners from both countries should have access to host leaders to help maintain the bilateral relationship. In addition, the BNC’s decisions need to be communicated at all levels, including provincial and local government, to ensure effective implementation;
2. Nigeria and South Africa should prioritise their bilateral relationship to promote democracy, security, and development in Africa. Divergent national and regional interests need to be carefully managed to ensure that the continent is protected from external attempts at “divide and rule”. Steps should be taken to ensure that the two countries’ efforts to keep and build peace in Africa are not misinterpreted as attempts to further parochial agendas. Nigeria and South Africa should also coordinate carefully on any interventions in each other’s sub-regional spheres of influence;
3. Nigeria and South Africa need to resolve their differences over representation on international bodies. Consideration should be given to agreeing a mechanism to formalise how the AU should select African non-permanent representatives to the UN Security Council. For example, one of the three non-permanent seats could be rotated between Africa’s major powers; another between the continent’s middle powers; and the third between the smaller African states. Abuja and Tshwane should also coordinate more effectively on nominations of senior officials to the AU Commission;
4. Nigeria and South Africa should work together more closely to represent Africa’s interests at international fora, including at multilateral bodies such as the G20 in which South Africa is the sole African country. The foreign affairs committee of the BNC could aid this process. As already suggested by the BNC in 2012, Nigerian and South African diplomats in Addis Ababa, New York, Geneva, and Vienna should prioritise the coordination of both countries’ positions on international bodies in order to promote African interests more effectively;
5. Also suggested by the BNC of 2012, a tripartite group consisting of Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola could be created to consult on African issues, and this body could later be expanded to include Ethiopia and Algeria. It was further suggested that a second North African representative could be Egypt, and an East African representative such as Kenya could also be included in the group;
6. Greater South African investment in Nigeria should be encouraged to develop infrastructure and create mutually beneficial business models. Economic relations could also be improved through greater inclusion of the private sector in the BNC’s work, and by relaxing entry restrictions for business people;
7. The Nigeria/South Africa free trade area proposed by the BNC in March 2002 could be revived to remove high tariff and non-tariff barriers that inhibit intra-African trade. A political commitment should be made to create a free trade area between ECOWAS and SADC in the long term, and a trade corridor between the two subregions in the medium term, in order to promote regional integration and socio-economic development across Africa;
8. Nigeria and South Africa should be in the forefront of efforts to redress capital flight from Africa – estimated at between $735 billion and $1.8 trillion between 2008 and 2010 – which would boost intraregional trade, strengthen region-building efforts, and help to alleviate poverty;
9. The BNC should seek greater engagement from civil society in its work, particularly to counter common prejudices and communicate more effectively the benefits of close cooperation between the two countries. Abuja and Tshwane should seek greater public visibility for bilateral visits and events. Media on both sides should also be educated on the extent and nature of current and historical socioeconomic and political relations. Business schools in both countries should provide diversity training for South African businesses operating on the continent. Links between trade unions, business fora, militaries, sports clubs, and cultural groups should be strengthened; and the establishment of friendship associations encouraged; and finally,
10. “Track-two” mechanisms deploying current and former senior foreign policy officials and experts could be established to forestall potential diplomatic incidents, to act as back-channels in times of crisis, and to help both sides to “reset” bilateral relations.
- Extracted from the conference report published by the Centre for Conflict Resolution. The eight page report can be accessed here.
- Related: Nigeria and South Africa - Rivalries, Rows and Reconciliations, by Adekeye Adebajo.