Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday challenged the South African government to take deliberate steps that would open up the country’s economy for more Nigerian businesses.
President Buhari stated this at the inaugural meeting of the 9th Bi-National Commission in Pretoria.
The President, who said the South African government should also guarantee the safety of Nigerians living in the country, stressed the need for reciprocity in promoting trade and investments between both countries.
He said South African companies had enjoyed unfettered access to the Nigerian market and protection with enabling laws, urged the government to design policies that favour investments from Nigeria.
The President had co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Bi-National Commission at the level of heads of state.
President Buhari in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “We are pleased to inform you that our Government has made doing business in Nigeria easier through the Ease of Doing Business Initiative to open up more opportunities for investors in Nigeria.
“We call on the Government of South Africa to also take steps to ease the doing of business in the country, and open up its market space for Nigerian businessmen and women.
“In this context, we are gratified that a Nigeria-South Africa Business Forum has been organized in the framework of this State visit.”
He said Nigeria would continue to value its relationship with South Africa, the continent’s second-largest economy, noting that 32 agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) had been signed between both countries.
Buhari said: “We, in Nigeria, value the warm fraternal relations binding our two countries and cherish our Special Relationship. We consider South Africa an ally and a strategic partner.
“We need to implement those that have come into force, as well as to expedite necessary action to ratify the seven outstanding agreements that have not yet been brought into force.
“I welcome the robust Defence Cooperation between Nigeria and South Africa, and call for more support and solidarity with us in our fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We also welcome the increased collaboration against arms and drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.”
The President “condemned in the strongest terms, attacks against Nigerians and other African nationals living in South Africa, the looting of their shops and businesses and burning of their properties.
“We call for the strengthening and implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the re-occurrence of such action which threatens to undermine, not only our strong bilateral relations but also, what we stand for in the context of our vision for a strong and prosperous Africa we want,” he stated.
He also condemned the “very few incidents of retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria, saying, “I am happy to report that we took strong and decisive measures to stop the attacks and prevent any recurrence.’’
In his remarks, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, congratulated President Buhari for winning the 2019 presidential elections.
He said the attacks on foreign nationals were regrettable, assuring that his government will do more to safeguard lives and property.
“We will always be grateful to Nigeria for the support we received during the dark days of apartheid,’’ he added. “We shall never forget the role you played to ensure that our people get the freedom we are enjoying today.’’