By Vera Samuel Anyagafu
The Consul General, South African High Commission, Mr. Darkey Africa said South Africa and Nigeria need greater collaboration in response to the diversification efforts by the Nigerian government, especially in the area of Agricultural production, agro-processing, food security, rural development and others.
In this exclusive interview, Darkey, who also disclosed that trade between the two countries is likely to hit N1.3 trillion, said that South Africa and Nigeria can take the continent forward by working together as brothers with one voice to ensure that the agenda 2063 is visible.
How would you describe bi-lateral relations between South Africa and Nigeria?
South Africa-Nigeria bi-lateral relations are very good and encouraging. There are a number of Nigerians coming to South Africa for various activities and so do South Africans come to Nigeria to engage in various businesses and both citizens are assisting in growing the two countries’ economies, because both countries are two major economies in Africa.
As you may be aware there are over 120 South African companies in Nigeria and all of these brands are doing well and it is an indication of the significance and importance of our countries’ bond.
You will notice that we recently attended a summit on agriculture organised here in Nigeria and a number of delegates came from South Africa to meet with the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Many of our discussions were around agricultural production, agro-processing, rural development, food security, market access and so on, and we intend sharing these expertise with our brothers and sisters in here in Nigeria.
For over decades, South Africa has concentrated on agriculture and has built expertise and because Nigeria is moving away from oil and going into other products, we are ready to share the experiences and expertise we have.
Revitalizing agriculture and the agro-business value chain is critical for Nigeria. Therefore, South Africa stands ready to share its expertise and experiences accumulated over decades. We are extremely ready and are having discussions with various organisations and stake holders here.
In first week of December, 2016, we will be having an agricultural summit organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and we strongly believe that the two countries can work together on other key areas for progression.
What is the volume of trade between South Africa and Nigeria?
The volume of trade between Nigeria and South Africa has increased to R62 billion and or N1.3 Trillion over a period of 5 years. And that is extremely important and a good indicator of the relationship both countries share.
We are also looking at cooperation around agricultural research and training in addition to academic exchange issues, student exchange issues, and greater collaboration is also visible in music, art, and culture and these relations are growing.
However, volume of trade is likely to reach over R100 billion in near future and it is also important that we enhance collaboration in Mining, infrastructure and energy, which for fact, is the driver for growth.
Currently, top export destination is Botswana at 17 per cent and Nigeria with only 3.5 per cent if we look at Africa as a whole and this situation need to improve as we have more South African companies in Nigeria but very few Nigerian companies in South Africa.
Hardly does anyone hear about programs by South African High Commission aimed at giving back to the community they work in, unlike most embassies in Nigeria. Are we expecting a change in this regard?
We do a lot of programs and sharing of experiences and expertise with the government and people of Nigeria.
During our last women program, the commissioner for women on poverty and alleviation in Lagos State was part of the meeting and even Senator Remi Tinubu was also part of the meeting together with the deputy governor, Lagos State and we engaged in matters relating to women.
In that meeting we expressed the need to have this relationship continue. Our department of women in South Africa and the Lagos State department have this strong engagement and we have to push and take it to a higher level.
For instance, during international Nelson Mandela Day, the High Commission, together with South African companies here in Nigeria visit Orphanages and this we do as part of our social responsibility and this has been the routine.
Every year, we support these orphanages as part of celebrating the legacy of our late President, Nelson Mandela. We also do several other projects in collaboration with South African companies and Nigeria government for our two countries’ mutual benefits.
Has there been any major change in the procedure or rules for obtaining non-immigrant visa by persons wishing to travel to South Africa?
The rules are still the same. They have not really changed. They apply as it is normal and give information that is required and within 6 days from the day they submit applications, they will be able to get their visa.
However, the situation has improved tremendously and the people are working with our consular section appropriately. I have been receiving lots of letter where applicants are thanking our consular officers for the way their applications are handled with fairness and objectivity. In other words, when applicants comply with rules, they get their visas in a very short space of time.
Is there anything you want Nigeria visa applicants to do differently to make the work of your consular officers easier?
Yes. I want them to comply. We need compliance here. Submit in time and follow the rules.
They know it. It is there in our website and I am sure they know where VFS is located across the country. So it is required that when they apply and have followed the rules as they are outlined, they must get their visas at a very short space of time.
Is there any issue you may want to share here?
There is a need to create that communication so that people know what is happening between our two countries. We recently had business people from South Africa who met with their Nigerian counterparts and it is an important thing that they are building relations, strengthening and working within the frameworks of the agreements in existence here in Nigeria.
There are so many things to talk about between South Africa and Nigeria. For instance, Agenda 2063 is an important program of all African countries and it intends taking most African countries to greater heights of development.
This is also an agenda that is also focusing on the youth, because the youth are the multi-force for the development of Africa and the several aspirations that are in agenda 2063, are critical in many ways to take Africa from where it is to greater heights.
These are issues we need to engage between ourselves. South Africa and Nigeria should have a common narrative about the potentials of these 2 countries in Africa, and the more we have that, the better the prospects for our future.
These two countries have the development of our continent. They are the engine propelling the implementation of agenda 2063.
So it is important that together with our friends here, we begin to chart a new narrative about the future that we seek but also about how we can strengthen the relationship between the two countries, so, once these relationships are strong and strengthened, we are able to push very closely and jointly the vision contained in agenda 2063, because we owe it to our fore bearers.
We owe it to Nnamdi Azikiwe, to Nelson Mandela, because they saw the potential of this great continent and we cannot be the generation to obstruct that.
They saw the ability and greatness of the continent, the brotherhood of the continent and the possibilities and we must realise all these.
We must make it. Everything is there and so, together, we will work to achieve and communicate this narrative that looks forward into the future that draws from the inspirations of our fore bearers.
And I want to say that together, South Africa and Nigeria can take the continent forward as we work together as brothers and sisters, building the relationship between our 2 countries so we are seen as example for all the countries of the continent.