The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has urged for a stronger emphasis on people-to-people relations between South Africa and Nigeria; to evolve to a point where there would be no need for unhealthy competition.
This is as he reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to improving a “special relationship’’ with South Africa, which will translate into gains for the continent, particularly in education, science, trade and investment, tourism and security.
Buhari said this on Wednesday when he received South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the State House, in Abuja.
At the opening of the 10th Session of Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission held in his office, Buhari said, “Mr President, permit me to state that some of the challenges identified during the last Bi-National Commission have not been completely addressed. We need to ensure that our people-to-people relations are enhanced to a point where there would be no need for unhealthy competition.
“In this regard, we need improvement in educational and scientific cooperation, mines and energy resources, transport and aviation, tourism, youth exchange programmes, trade and investment and military cooperation, to mention but a few.”
Buhari told ministers and government delegates of both countries that a strong bond of brotherhood between Nigeria and South Africa would be of great benefit to Africa as a catalyst for economic, technological, social and cultural development and as a force for peace and security on the continent.
At the end of the Summit, both Presidents signed additional agreements and reviewed some of the 32 existing agreements between Nigeria and South Africa.
They include Memoranda of Understanding on Youth Development, Women and Child Empowerment and Political Consultations, as well as other agreements.
According to Buhari, the agreement on Early Warning Mechanism would “improve the people-to-people relations of our two countries. Similarly, our two countries have established high-level official communication channels for diplomatic consultations, trade and investment, and will, shortly, inaugurate the Nigeria – South Africa Youth Dialogue. I am confident that these vehicles of engagement and cooperation will serve our mutual interests.”
The Nigerian President commended the South African leader for initiating the Nigeria–South Africa Youth Dialogue which he (Buhari) also endorsed.
Earlier, both leaders launched the Nigeria-South Africa Youth Dialogue for Peace and Security, Youth Development and Political Participation.
Speaking to the youths attending the launch virtually, Buhari expressed optimism that the establishment of the Youth Dialogue would promote peace-building and development as well as help both countries jointly combat youth restiveness.
He also noted that the Dialogue would afford both countries to strategically develop ”a vast world of collaboration in areas of science and technology,” including climate change, energy demands, green technology, artificial intelligence, cyber security, telematics, agriculture, technology and much more.
“Nigeria and South Africa have a combined population of about 262 million of which 95 million are youth.
This represents tremendous potential for both countries if we can truly harness this demographic with more dedicated action,” the President said.
He noted that this sizable youth population may also represent significant problems if both governments fail to maximize their potential in a world that globalization and technology are reshaping at breakneck speed.
”These are the rationale for proposing this Youth Dialogue,” he said.
He also urged Nigerian and South African youths to see themselves as brothers and sisters with a lot to share and explore together, not as foes.
He added that even when Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles compete, they must be friendly rivals. He further described the inauguration of the Steering Committee on the Youth Dialogue during the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission as a great leap forward.
”It will aim to jointly combat the restiveness of our youth, exchange ideas/opportunities and reduce friction amongst them,’’ he explained.
According to the President, the areas of cooperation under the Youth Dialogue would include exchange programmes on notable national, international and historic events; National Youth Service initiatives; sharing of best practices on national youth legislation, policy frameworks and guidelines as well as youth entrepreneurial development and support.
Other areas of cooperation are market development and export marketing for youth; partnership in youth development in the following sectors: mineral resources, environment, forests and woodlands and waste management value chains, he said.
From the Agreement establishing the Youth Dialogue, exchange of information on technologies, research and development programmes and experts as well as assisting in the areas of accessibility, availability and affordability of mobility aids featured prominently.
The Steering Committee is expected to come up with the road map for the actualization of the Youth Dialogue.
Following the Bilateral meetings, both Presidents spoke to State House Correspondents at a joint press conference with the visiting South African President at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa.
There, Buhari described President Ramaphosa’s State Visit as successful despite the scare generated by the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
While disclosing details of the newly signed Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa and the reviews made on existing ones, Buhari said, “Despite the scare generated by the new COVID-19 variant, we have been able to hold successful meetings, while observing strict COVID-19 protocols, through fraternal cooperation and understanding.
”I sincerely wish to thank my brother and colleague, President Cyril Ramaphosa for honouring my invitation. I equally wish to thank members of the South African delegation and the experts that worked tirelessly during the Senior Officials Meeting.
Today has witnessed the signing of new Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas including Youth Development, Women and Child Empowerment and Political Consultations; critical areas that will lead to increased people to people contact,” Buhari said.
He said existing MOUs signed during previous Bi-National Commission meetings were also reviewed. These include MOUs on Military Cooperation, Power, Cooperation in the field of Geology, Mining, and Mineral Processing, Oil and Gas and several others.
Buhari thanked his South African counterpart for initiating the Youth Dialogue, noting that continuous interaction between the youth of the two countries will further break down barriers and suspicion among our people.
“I hope that beyond being a vehicle for mutual learning and understanding by our youth, it would also foster the kindred spirit of humanity towards others as prescribed in the great South African traditional philosophy of Ubuntu. That would lay a solid foundation for the realization of the Africa that we want,” he said.
He added that the inauguration of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, would enable the private sectors of the two largest economies in Africa to further promote economic cooperation and development.
On his part, President Ramaphosa, thanked the leaders of Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal for expressing their dissatisfaction with the travel ban imposed on South Africa and sister neighbouring countries in the aftermath of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant by South African scientists.
He described the imposition of the ban by some western countries as “arbitrary, discriminatory, unscientific and unproductive” in the long run.
The agreement on audiovisual cooperation will be a boost to the film production industries in our respective countries. And we, as South Africa stands to benefit greatly from cooperation with the world-famous Nollywood, that has really emerged very strongly here in Nigeria,” The South African leader said.
Ramaphosa arrived at the Villa at about 10 am on Wednesday and was received by Buhari. He, thereafter, inspected a guard of honour and was treated to a 21-gun salute.
His visit to the Villa came hours after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control confirmed the first three cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria, saying they are linked to passengers from South Africa.