After embarking on some foreign trips recently, it was time for President Muhammadu Buhari to host the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa in the 10th Session of Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Abuja.
Recall that two weeks ago, President Buhari was in South Africa for the Intra- African Trade in Durban.
Indeed, there is this cold war between Nigeria and South Africa on who is the giant of Africa. Xenophobic attacks in recent years in South Africa are a pointer that Nigerians are an endangered species in the country. They have been bantering and fierce competition between Nigeria and South Africa in recent years in virtually all the fields of life.
Experts have called for the rivalry to stop and both countries should form closer ties for the growth and development of the African region.
The Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission is an avenue to foster ties between both countries.
Also, the outbreak of the new Covid -19 variant omicron sparked fears that the visit of the South African President may be canceled. It was not so as on Wednesday morning, Ramaphosa with his entourage drove into the presidential Villa.
The session aimed to review the existing MOUs signed during previous Bi-National Commission meetings. These include MOUs on Military Cooperation, Power, Cooperation in the field of Geology, Mining, and Mineral Processing, Oil and Gas, and several others.
At the opening of the event, President Buhari urged a stronger emphasis on people-to-people relations between South Africa and Nigeria to evolve a bond that will be of benefit to both countries and the entire African continent. 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.
President 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.
Adding: “Let me at this point re-iterate my commitment to ensuring that the special relationship between our two countries is continually strengthened.’’
President Buhari said it was fulfilling that despite all the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the BNC was still holding on schedule.
“It is also gratifying to observe that this has been brought about by the dogged commitment of senior officials from our countries.
“More importantly, it is gratifying to note that despite the pandemic, our timelines for implementing some decisions of the 9th BNC have been met. Similarly, discussions are ongoing on new and important areas of cooperation between our two countries.
Also, both leaders in Abuja launched the Nigeria-South Africa Youth Dialogue for Peace and Security, Youth Development, and Political Participation.
President 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.
The Nigerian leader 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.
The Nigerian leader expressed confidence that collaborations in science and technology and many other areas in a strategic and committed way would provide both countries with solutions and critical intellectual property to unleash economic outcomes for millions of job creations.
‘’I must urge our youth to see themselves as brothers and sisters with a lot to share and explore together, not as foes.
‘’Even when Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles compete, it must be as friendly rivals,’’ President Buhari declared.
According to the President, the areas of cooperation under the Youth Dialogue would include exchange programs 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 programs 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.
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 neighboring 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.
‘’This is a global pandemic and overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective.
‘’The resulting damage to this travel ban to the economies of the countries affected will be considerable and long-lasting.
‘’So I want to use this opportunity to tell the countries that have imposed this ban to reverse their decisions whether they are the northern more developed economies or in other parts of our continent or elsewhere,’’ he said.