Nigeria–South Africa relations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Nigerian-South African relations
Map indicating locations of Nigeria and South Africa


South Africa

Nigeria – South Africa relations refers to the current and historical relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. Both countries are former British colonies. Both countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations and African Union.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 63% of Nigerians view South Africa's influence positively, with 24% expressing a negative view.[1]

Country comparison[edit]

 Nigeria  South Africa
Coat of Arms Coat of arms of Nigeria.svg Coat of arms of South Africa.svg
Flag Nigeria South Africa
Population 185,989,640 54,956,900
Area 923,768 km2 (356,669 sq mi) 1,221,037 km2 (471,445 sq mi)
Population density 197.2/km2 (510.7/sq mi) 42.4/km2 (109.8/sq mi)
Capital city Abuja Pretoria (Executive)

Cape Town (Legislative)

Bloemfontein (Judicial)

Largest city Lagos – 8,048,430 (21,000,000 Metro) Johannesburg – 957,441 (8,434,292 Metro)
Government Federal presidential constitutional republic Unitary presidential constitutional republic
First head of state and government Nnamdi Azikiwe Nelson Mandela
Current head of state and government Muhammadu Buhari Jacob Zuma
Governing political party All Progressives Congress African National Congress
Main language English (national language) Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English
Main religions 52% Islam

46% Christian 2% Other

80% Christian

15% Irreligious 1% Islam 1% Hinduism

3% Other

Ethnic groups 21% Yoruba

18% Igbo

13% Hausa

4% Fula

44% Other

80% Black

9% Coloureds 8% White 3% Asian

GDP (nominal) $0.484 trillion $0.326 tillion
GDP (nominal) per capita $2,640 $5,859
GDP (PPP) $1.166 trillion $0.742 tillion
GDP (PPP) per capita $6,351 $13,321
Real GDP growth rate -1.5% 0.3%
Human Development Index 0.527 (Low) 0.666 (Medium)
Military expenditure $2.0 billion $4.6 billion
Military personnel 200,000 82,150
English speakers 79,000,000 16,424,417
Labor force 58,672,110 21,099,530
Mobile phones 154,340,000 40,700,000

Apartheid era[edit]

During the apartheid era in South Africa, Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of anti-apartheid movements, including the African National Congress; the Nigerian government issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad.[2] Sonny Okosun, a Nigerian musician, wrote the hit song "Fire in Soweto" in 1977 to commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid in South Africa.[3]


Following the end of apartheid in 1994, South African businesses sought for professionals to immigrate and a large number of Nigerians did so.[2] It is estimated that there were 24,000 Nigerians living in South Africa in 2011.[4]

Much of South Africa's good will towards Nigerians for supporting the ANC during apartheid has disappeared due to the activities of Nigerian organized crime in the country.[5] Nigerian organised crime groups, mostly involved in illegal drug trafficking, in South Africa grew rapidly between 1994 and 1998.[6][7]

Increasing competition between the two countries for positions at multilateral organizations is also thought to have worsened relations. Nigeria acted against South Africa to replace the incumbent Jean Ping, who Nigeria supports, with South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the powerful position of the African Union Commission chairperson.[8] Relations further deteriorated when South Africa backed incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo for control of Côte d’Ivoire in 2011.[8] However, after Dlamini-Zuma won the election Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru stated that although Nigeria supported Ping for the position of AU chairperson in "a position which was principled along with our ECOWAS members and we stood by it. But as usual, people can insinuate that once Nigeria was not in the camp of South Africa, it means that Nigeria is against South Africa. We are not against South Africa".[9]

Human Rights Criticism[edit]

The Mandela-led ANC had been seeking to help resolve the political crisis in Nigeria since 1993 following the annulment of the Nigerian elections in June 1993. In June 1994 Nigeria's military ruler, General Sani Abacha arrested and sentenced for execution 40 political opponents including former Nigerian head of state Olusegun Obasanjo as well as Chief Moshood Abiola. Mandela sent Archbishop Desmond Tutu and then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki on successive missions to Nigeria to lobby for the release of Obasanjo, Abiola and nine others.

Right up until the Commonwealth Summit in 1995 Mandela was misled by Abacha into believing that there would be a stay of execution. However, one of South Africa's first experiments with quiet diplomacy failed when in November 1995 Abacha moved ahead with the execution of the nine Ogoni leaders including Ken Saro-Wiwa. After which South African president Mandela then publicly criticised General Abacha for human rights abuses and personally pushed for a two-year suspension of Nigeria's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.[10]:177 Mandela also criticised Royal Dutch Shell for going ahead with a US$4 billion gas project in Nigeria despite its unpopularity within Nigeria and the rest of the world.[6]

This led to South Africa being isolated in Africa amid accusations that it was:

Within a month South Africa started back tracking in an attempt to patch up its relationship with other African nations; and in an attempt to regain regional prestige amongst other African governments at the expense of its international prestige. On 29 March 1995 Wole Soyinka, leader of an exiled Nigerian democratic movement, attempted to hold a conference in South Africa. The South African government responded by refusing to grant any visas to Nigerian democrats for six weeks prior to the conference. South Africa's ruling political party, the ANC, called for the conference to be cancelled.[11]

The Nigerian debacle forced South Africa into a new foreign policy approach. Leading the country to abandon a 'go it alone' policy and into a policy that sought to build partnerships with fellow African states through regional and continental bodies. It also made South Africa reluctant to engage in any confrontation with any other African states.[10]:178

Visa restrictions and expulsions[edit]

Relations between the two countries were damaged in 2012 when 125 Nigerian travellers to South Africa were expelled due to not having valid Yellow Fever certificates. In retaliation Nigeria expelled 56 South African businesspeople. This prompted the two countries to enter into discussions around easing travel and visa restrictions between the two countries as a means of enhancing bilateral relations and trade.[4]

Trade and investment[edit]

In November 2009, South Africa hosted the South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission in Pretoria. At the conference, it was noted that Oando, an energy conglomerate based in Lagos had recently been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the Nigeria-based Dangote Group had invested a record $378 million in South Africa's cement industry. In 2008, approximately $2.1 billion was traded between the two states.[12] By 2012 total bilateral trade had increased to $3.6 billion.

In 2012 83% of trade was taken up by South African imports of Nigerian crude oil. Between 2002 and 2012 South African imports from Nigeria have increased by 750% (mostly increases in oil imports) whilst Nigerian imports from South Africa have increased by 130%.[13] The Nigeria - South Africa Chamber of Commerce serves to improve and facilitate bi-lateral trade relationships between Nigeria and South Africa. Its offices are in Lagos, Nigeria and it has in its membership 315 companies currently trading in both Nigeria and South Africa. It is made up of blue-chip companies, Nigerian companies and South African companies.

Nigerian businesspeople have expressed concern over the pace and perceived rapid expansion of South African business interests in the country.[4]


  1. ^ 2013 World Service Poll BBC
  2. ^ a b The love/hate relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, May 2008
  3. ^ Discography of Sonny Okosun
  4. ^ a b c "After the bilateral: assessing the state of Nigeria-South African relations". South African Foreign Policy Initiative. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-18. 
  5. ^ Ebhuomhan, Sebastine (2 September 2010). "South African envoy explains hostility to Nigerians". 234Next. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Shaw, Mark (28 January 1998). "ORGANISED CRIME IN POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA". Institute for Security Studies. Retrieved 26 January 2011.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Independent" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  7. ^ "Street life: drug trafficker's diary". Daily Maverick. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Molele, Charles (8 June 2012). "Why Nigeria hates SA: Gloves off to be champion of Africa". Mail and Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Aremu, Issa (23 July 2012). "The Rise and Fall of Nigeria's diplomacy". The Daily Trust. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Landsberg, Christopher (2004). The Quiet Diplomacy of Liberation. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. p. 264. ISBN 1-77009-028-2. 
  11. ^ a b "South Africa's foreign policy: Human rights and national interests". Helen Suzman Foundation. second quarter 1996. Retrieved 26 January 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ SA, Nigeria to push trade, investment
  13. ^ Freemantle, Simon (May 2013). "Evaluating South Africa‐Nigeria commercial ties". Standard Bank. Retrieved 2013-05-18.