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Nigeria, South Africa vow to make Africa greater

Written By Joseph Y. Musa on Wednesday, May 08, 2013 | 5/08/2013 10:34:00 am

CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Leaders from continental powerhouses South Africa and Nigeria pledged to create an alliance “to make Africa great” Tuesday, signing a slew of bilateral deals to renew often
strained relations.
South African President Jacob Zuma rolled out a red carpet for his counterpart Goodluck Jonathan, in what was hailed as a landmark visit to overcome simmering regional rivalries.
“My presence here today signals a spirit of renewal of our partnership. Together, we will make Africa great,” Jonathan told South African lawmakers after ministers signed nine pacts covering oil and gas, power, defence and communication.
The day was heavy with symbolism and statements of intent, as the starkly different nations tried to put rows over visas and membership of the United Nations Security Council in the past.
“More than ever before, we Africans must take our destiny in our hands and make a success of it,” the Nigerian leader said.
Jonathan, making the first state visit by any Nigerian leader since 2009, received a 21 gun salute as the two men referred to each other as “brother” and vowed to become the engine driving African integration.
Jonathan, Zuma: a handshake for a new deal
Jonathan insisted the two nations would achieve “more acting in concert than acting alone”.
Zuma, who last month visited Abuja, hailed a “higher level of cooperation” between the two countries and described Jonathan’s trip as “historic.”
“We have a duty to take these historical relations further,” he said.
The first step, Zuma argued, should be the creation of an African Union standby force that could prove a powerful tool in finding African solutions to African problems.
“The need for an intervention brigade has become more crucial in light of the situations of instability in the Central African Republic, eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Mali,” he said.
But beyond the rhetoric, there will be a tough slog to overcome rocky patches and frequent rivalries.
An embarrassing tit-for-tat row broke out last year over yellow fever vaccinations, which led to passengers being turned away at airports in both countries in March last year.
Jonathan dismissed the “very negative and wrong impression” of a competition for a permanent UN Security Council position, saying the need for an African seat was in the continent’s interest and beyond that of the individual countries.
As foreign investors look to pile into Africa, the two could easily see themselves as economic rivals.
While South Africa is still the continent’s biggest economy, Nigerian business activity is set to grow more than twice as fast, by 7.2 percent, this year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.
A rebasing of Nigerian economic statistics could soon see South Africa become the continent’s second largest economy.
Nigeria is already the continent’s most populous country and its biggest oil producer.
While two-way trade has risen, it is still worth just $4.1 billion (3 billion euro) a year, with a surplus in oil-rich Nigeria’s favour, according to South Africa’s department of trade.
Observers welcomed the meeting.
“If this is the start of a closer relationship, then I think that would be a very good thing all around for both countries and the continent as a whole because they are the two big powers in Africa,” said Dianna Games, honorary chief executive of the South Africa-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce on the eve of the visit.
The two leaders were expected to attend a bilateral business forum later Tuesday, while Jonathan will also hold separate talks with the South African-based MTN telecommunications company and representatives of South Africa-based branches of Toyota and Nissan.
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