REFLECTIONS on the history of Africa’s two biggest economies dominated the SA-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce’s (SA-NCC) 10th-anniversary dinner in Johannesburg last week, BY DIANNA GAMES.
George Nene, a former South African ambassador to Nigeria, told guests of how his six-year sojourn in exile during apartheid was transformed into an ambassadorship when he was asked by former president Nelson Mandela to open SA’s first embassy in Nigeria in 1994.
Nene facilitated the long corporate trek to Lagos by companies such as South African Airways, MultiChoice and MTN.
The early relationship was dynamic. In 1999, the SA-Nigeria Binational Commission was formed and deputy president at the time Jacob Zuma was the lead representative in its early meetings.
In 2005, when the chamber was formed, MTN was already the market leader in Nigeria.
Its success in the market had attracted many other big household names, such as Protea Hotels.
That year, Nigerian oil company Oando listed shares on the JSE to great fanfare; Virgin Nigeria, the national airline for a time, started flights to Johannesburg.
Ten years later, investment and trade has escalated significantly. Nigeria is probably SA’s biggest trading partner in Africa and one of its biggest crude oil suppliers.
However, speakers at last week’s chamber dinner rued the fact that, at many levels, the relationship has not realised its full promise.
- Published in Business Day SA, 9 November 2015