Pretoria - South Africa is looking forward to working with Nigerian businesses to further open up trade opportunities and allow investment to grow between the two countries, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
The Deputy President was speaking during a business roundtable which formed part of the 10-year anniversary of the South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC) at the weekend.
Motlanthe said the business relationship between Nigeria and South Africa was full of opportunities as witnessed by the success recorded so far by South African companies doing business in Nigeria.
"We are seeing entry of Nigerian-based companies into South Africa, the highlight, of course, being the listing of Oando Nigeria on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the investment by Dangote Group in our cement industry for a record $378 million.
"At a private business level, we are seeing some of Nigeria's successful business people partnering with their South African counterparts. We would like to see more of such partnerships and more of Nigerian businesses coming into South Africa," he added.
He said business enterprises had a critical role to play in the pursuit of socio-economic goals.
The scope of engagement between the country's respective private sectors spans across such crucial areas as energy, telecommunications, banking, construction, hospitality and retail.
Since the launch of the BNC, trade between the two countries had leapt from $16.5 million in 1999 to $2.1 billion in 2008.
However, while trade and investment between South Africa and Nigeria has grown rapidly in the last few years, it was just started to scratch the surface of what it could be, said Motlanthe.
"We should all admit that we can do more if we redouble our efforts. There are still many trade opportunities between our countries which remain largely untapped."
He noted that the Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economic Study that had just been released reported that construction growth in Nigeria will be the fastest of all markets in the next 10 years.
The study says infrastructure construction was set to grow in emerging markets by 128 percent from now to 2020, compared with 18 percent over the same period in developed countries.
"For us as a developing nation that has embarked on massive infrastructure development occasioned by, amongst others, South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, these forecasts are already coming true.
"The forecasts about construction growth in Nigeria and what we are currently witnessing in South Africa in this area of activity demonstrate the existence of permanent and strategic business and government-to-government interests between our two countries."
He said that South Africa would like to bring parity to the skewed trade balance in favour of Nigeria because of the amount of oil South Africa imports from Nigeria.
Listing some of the achievements of the BNC since is establishment, Motlanthe said the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, in terms of the Advocates Act 74 of 1964, designated Nigeria so that Nigerian lawyers can practice in South Africa and an agreement was signed with Nigerian Travel and Tour operators to jointly promote South Africa and Nigeria.
In relation to education, there is ongoing collaboration between the University of South Africa and the National Open University of Nigeria. "Our Department of Education has facilitated the acquisition of work permits for Nigerian academics to lecture in our tertiary institutions."
On Health matters, there have been exchanges of policy documents and legislation in the area of traditional medicine. In 2007, there were exchanges of missions, especially in the area of local production of herbal medicines and the transfer of medical technology.
In the same year, South Africa donated 1.7 million Polio vaccines to Nigeria.
The Deputy President added that since the establishment of the BNC, South Africa had provided training on drug information for Nigerian health practitioners.
Regarding the oil, energy and gas sector, PetroSA has been operating partnership with MONI PULO, a Nigerian indigenous company. PetroSA was also awarded a contract by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to lift crude from Nigeria.
Eskom has also assisted the former National Electric Power Authority of Nigeria in the rehabilitation and repair of transmission transformers and setting them back to location.
The Deputy President was expected to sign an Immigration Agreement during his visit to Nigeria, but due to delays occasioned by South Africa's overall review of its immigration policy, this has been postponed.
He said that in keeping with its commitment to ease immigration between Nigeria and South Africa, government had in the interim made provision for three-year Multiple-Entry Visas for holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This will be implemented with immediate effect, while giving time for the completion of the review process.