Like a wild wind, South African companies have completely overrun Nigeria leaving the country and its nationals at the outskirt of the economy seen as one of the largest and most financially rewarding on the African continent, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek can now reveal.
The reverse is the case in South Africa as Nigerians and their businesses suffer discrimination and exclusion.
South Africa’s invasion and resultant control of the economy was helped by Nigeria’s desperation for foreign investments and hasty opening up of the sectors before the right conditions are present.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that unlike South Africa, there is currently no restriction on foreign nationals or foreign entities doing business in Nigeria as they are only required to incorporate a local vehicle registered with Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) before commencing business.
But in South Africa, there have been reports of how South African authorities insist on stringent measures against Nigerian businesses.
For instance, Main One, a trans-Atlantic submarine fibre-optic cable network promoted by Main Street Technologies was reportedly denied landing on the ground that nationals of the former apartheid enclave do not have controlling shares in the company.
Seizing the opportunities presented by Nigeria’s lax environment, South African entrepreneurs who have built up capacities (technical, financials and other know-how) during the prolonged apartheid regime started heading to Nigeria in the mid 90s.
Unlike their home country with a little over 47-million people, the market in Nigeria with more than 150 million people is still largely untapped.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered today, from information and communications technologies (ICTs), shopping, tourism, construction, energy, aviation, entertainment to revenue collection, South African firms are in control.
In South Africa, apart from hundreds of Nigerian expatriates in that country’s schools, hospitals, manufacturing firms, there is no record of Nigerian businesses.
Even the ballot papers used in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria were printed in South Africa.
The bad news is that rather than enjoy the benefits of the influx of the foreign companies, Nigerian economy is under pressure as the foreign firms determine what to produce and at what price Nigerians must buy.
Most of the foreign businesses are also perversely established as portfolio investment in paper assets that could quickly flow back out of the country.
Patrick Omokhidion, a security adviser said, “the security and economy implication will be far reaching at the end of the day.”
He said further “if South Africans suddenly withdraw from the country, Nigeria will be worse than Somalia, recall what happened to Asian countries when some portfolio investors left overnight.”
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the control of country’s economy by the South Africans started sore-footedly at the end of the obnoxious apartheid regime in 1994 and has over the last 11 years turned to an invasion.
Nigeria’s notoriety as haven for scams, worsening human rights records and one of the world’s most corrupt nations did not deter the aggressive South Africans. Not even the dearth of infrastructure.
The South Africans have been painstaking and deliberate in choosing the sectors they are dominating now. The sectors they play in are all essential.
Tola Awe, a public affairs commentator, said that South Africans are filling the voids left by Nigeria’s heartless and visionless administrators with fixation for accumulation of wealth for their children unborn.
But who will blame the South Africans who have kept faith with Nigeria as the Western world, shocked by the brazen pillage of Nigeria by its own citizens shunned the largest country on the African continent. Successive military rule and record of policy summersaults did not help matters.
Suddenly realizing that bilateral relations between the two countries are skewed in favour of the South African, Nigeria is now crying foul.
But as Nigeria cry, South African entrepreneurs smile to the banks here while there were little or no opportunities for Nigerians to do real business in the opposite direction.
Goodluck Jonathan, acting President was even more vocal November last year at celebrations to mark a decade of bilateral ties under the aegis of the Nigeria/South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC).
“Some Nigerians have questioned the very rationale for the BNC if our relations and the benefits they confer are so skewed and if South African authorities are engaged in alleged acts of discrimination against Nigerian visitors, residents and businesses in South Africa,” he said.
Patiently waiting for Jonathan to finish, Bongi Maria Ntuli, South Africa’s deputy Trade and Industry minister said that Nigeria is her country’s second largest trading partner on the continent.
“As an open economy, we welcome new investment and collaborative partnerships in key areas of opportunity - all uniquely poised to deliver real competitive advantage,” Ntuli said.
BNC, founded a little over 10 years is still dogged by problems of handshake across the borders, visa restrictions and unnecessary bickering.
Since the launch of the BNC, trade between the two African economic giants has leapt from $16.5 million in 1999 to $2.1 billion in 2008.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations however revealed that the balance of trade is in favour of the South Africans.
Proffering solution, Emmanuel Ekuwem, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (Atcon) urged the two countries go to the negotiation table and iron out the grey areas in their relationship.
He insisted that there must a symbiotic relationship between the two countries to ensure that Africa’s resources remains in Africa.
“Nigeria economy is the largest economy second to South Africa in the continent, the relationship between the two countries should be win-win, so as Nigeria opens up her borders economy to the South Africans, there must be reciprocity by South Africa,” Ekuwem added.
Most Nigerians agree that the country should get more from the South African businesses which have freely made record profits that are sent back home to subsidize the expensive life style of their promoters.
They are also united that in call for appropriate rules and customs to handle trade between countries or between private companies across borders.