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Nigeria: Xenophobic Attacks Threaten $60bn Nigeria-South African Trade

The testy relations between Nigeria and South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks in the rainbow nation and the reprisal in Nigeria may affect the volume of trade between both countries currently put at over $60 billion, THISDAY checks have revealed.

The Consul-General of the South Africa High Commission, Mr. Darkey Africa, had put the official trade volume between both countries at $60 billion.

Also, the National Bureau of Statistics First Quarter 2019 Foreign Trade Statistics also revealed that South Africa is one of Nigeria's top five export destinations as the country exported goods with total value of N325.5 billion or 7.2 per cent to South Africa within the period.

THISDAY obtained the data just as the two countries struggled yesterday to douse rising diplomatic tension, which has spilled into the streets with reprisals against South African interests in Nigeria.

In a pre-emptive move, the country Thursday announced the closure of the Lagos and Abuja offices of its High Commission in Nigeria over fears of attacks.

However, Nigeria said it had not been officially informed about the shutdown of the embassy just as the federal government alerted Nigerians to the spread of fake videos and news, which it said was soaking tension. It also warned against a resort to self-help over the killings of Nigerians in South Africa.

Amid the diplomatic tension, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) joined the fray yesterday, pushing for the nationalisation of the local arm of the South African telecoms giant, MTN Nigeria Limited, as well as calling on Nigerians to boycott all South African businesses in Nigeria, including banks.

But the search for solution continued yesterday as President Muhammadu Buhari's special envoy to South Africa was said to have departed Abuja to consult with the South African government on the current crisis.

On another front yesterday, the Lagos State Police Command charged 83 people before a Lagos State Magistrates' Court, sitting in Yaba, for attacking and looting outlets of South Africa-owed grocery chain, Shoprite, in Surulere and Sangotedo-Ajah, Lagos. They were also accused of stealing goods and damaging properties worth about N500 million.

Experts, who spoke to THISDAY, have, however, called for an earnest resolution of the diplomatic crisis between Nigerian and South Africa, given the huge bilateral trade between them.

They stressed the need to seek diplomatic solution to the current spat between both countries, which appears to be degenerating.

A reprisal against South Africa's business interests in Nigeria, according to the experts, is not the way to go as it might lead to further job losses in the country.

There are over 120 South Africa-owned businesses in Nigeria operating in different sectors.

But some of the leading companies in Nigeria are Stanbic IBTC, Rand Merchant Bank, MTN, Eskom Nigeria, South African Airways, South African Breweries (SAB miller), Multichoice, Shoprite, PEP Retail Stores, LTA Construction, Protea Hotels, Critical Rescue International, South African-Nigeria Communications, Global Outdoor Semces, Oracle and Airtime and Power Giant,

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY on the issue, the Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said South African investments were quite huge and significant to Nigeria.

"So, I think they should be able to resolve this matter amicably. We have about 14 flights between South Africa and Lagos weekly and that is a lot of business. It is in the interest of Nigeria and South Africa to resolve this issue so that it doesn't deteriorate," Rewane added.

Also, Chief Executive, Global Analytics Company, Mr. Tope Fasua told THISDAY that Nigeria might currently not be able to reciprocate the actions of the South Africans, "for obvious reasons."

He said: "Unfortunately, we are feeble against them, we don't have any strategic way to reciprocate what they are doing.

"However, if you look at the companies here, if we decide to go after the companies that are here, a lot of them have been farmed out to Nigerian owners who are the suppliers, who are subletting a lot of things and so on."

Similarly, economist and former Director General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Dr. Chijioke Ekechukwu, said retaliation might not be the most appropriate response from the Nigerian government as this could hurt the economy particularly in the areas of jobs and taxes.

He said: "To show good faith, they should be compensating the victims of such attacks. I do not support any reprisal attacks on South African companies because these companies are providing employment to our citizens and paying taxes to our internal revenue."

To a Senior Lecturer at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Bongo Adi, "hurting South Africa's business interest would not be in favour of Nigeria.

"South African investment makes up significant portion of Nigeria's FDI inflow. MTN is the largest FDI business in Nigeria, and so many others like that.

"In the infrastructure space, I understand that for the past few years, South African pension fund has been the largest chunk of infrastructure investment into Nigeria."

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