President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to begin a three-day State Visit on Oct. 3 to South Africa, where he is expected to discuss the safety of Nigerians still living in that country with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The visit is coming against the background of recent xenophobic attacks, the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerians, and the exchange of visits by Special Envoys of presidents Buhari and Cyril Ramaphosa aimed at addressing the issue.
While in that country, the Nigerian leader is expected to visit the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria and the Nigerian Consulate General in Johannesburg.
Buhari is also expected to visit Ramaphosa for a meeting during which issues of mutual benefit to both countries would be discussed.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the visit will provide an opportunity for both leaders to strengthen and deepen political, economic and social relations between both countries.
It is expected that Nigeria as a leader in Africa would remind South Africa of the role it played to end apartheid regime in that country and of its commitment to ensuring unity among Africans regardless of their differences.
President Buhari is also expected to sensitise the South African government to the virtues of avoiding any act capable of isolating the country due to xenophobic attacks by its citizens on foreigners and their businesses.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said in a statement that while in South Africa, the President would hold a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in the country.
According to him, the aim is to share in their experiences and reassure them of the Nigerian government’s commitment to working for the protection of their lives and property and promoting peaceful co-existence.
Following the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, which led to the loss of lives and destruction of properties of foreigners including Nigerians living in the country, both leaders sent special envoys to intervene in the matter.
Nigeria demanded compensation for the loss suffered by its citizens during the attack. During the President’s three-day visit, perhaps the issue could come up and the matter resolved amicably.
Between 2010 and 2015, trade between the two countries increased steadily from N43.6 billion (R.20.6 billion) in 2010 to N1.5 trillion (R.62 billion) in 2015.
“The gradual movement since 2010 could be attributed to Nigeria’s demand for automotive parts. South Africa exports cars, vehicles, structures and parts of structure, uncoated paper and paperboard.
“South African companies have today become significant players in these sectors of the Nigerian economy from 1999 to 2015,’’ the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Louis Mnguni, announced in 2016.
However, since 2016, trade volume between the two countries has dropped to about N1.3 trillion (R.55 billion) from N1,5 trillion (R.62 billion) in 2015.
It is expected, therefore, that both leaders would discuss issues that would lead to an improvement in trade between both countries.
It is gratifying to note that on Friday the South African has granted a request for Air Peace to begin commercial flights to Johannesburg.
South Africa granted the request as part of the implementation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement between both countries at the meeting of the 9th session of the Nigeria/South Africa Bi-National Commission in Pretoria.
The commission was established in 1999 to promote relations between both countries in 2001.
President Buhari and his host are expected to preside over the South Africa/Nigeria Bi-National Commission, during which a progress report will be presented and a communiqué issued at the end.
The communiqué is expected to upgrade the Bi-National Commission to a summit on Oct. 3.
President Buhari, according to Shehu, is expected back in the country Oct. 4.