President Muhammadu Buhari returned from South Africa (SA) to Abuja on Friday, September 4, after a 3-day official visit to the Southern African nation. The deal which was signed at the 9th Bi-National Commission of South Africa and Nigeria, established in 1999 to enhance trade between the two countries, took place on the sidelines at the Union Building in Pretoria.
Presidency’s media aide, Femi Adesina, subsequently announced in more detail that both countries have agreed on issuing 10-year visas to businessmen, academics and frequent travellers willing to travel between the two nations. While there is no doubt about the strength of trade between Nigeria and South Africa which was valued to be as much as $3.35 billion in 2018, the issue of Nigerians living in South Africa or emigrating to the Rainbow Nation is far from being totally resolved for Nigerians to begin exploring travelling options again.
Earlier, on Wednesday, September 2, the president was reported to have held a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in SA with the intention of reassuring them of his government’s commitment to protecting them as well as hearing experiences of their sojourn in the country.
However, in a twist which seemed to discredit the intention of the session with Nigerians in SA, Ayo Sogunro, an activist and lawyer living in SA, accused the president’s team of pre-selecting the audience which attended the meeting.
As minute as this action of filtering the Nigerian audience which the president was exposed to in SA already casts in doubt the impact of the outcome of the 9th Bi-National parley which the South African host country. It was, therefore, not surprising when the news of the 10-year visa for businessmen and academics was corroborated with glee by another of the president’s media aides, Bashir Ahmad.
Securing a 10-year visa deal for Nigerians willing to travel to South Africa is not an achievement in itself if the security of Nigerians willing to do business in SA can still not be guaranteed by its government and the people.
In fact, such a visa category can only drain the little surplus Naira which should have been pooled back into the Nigerian economy and the stretch the brain drain being experienced back home already. As a more accessible door for obtaining travel visas is now made available to Nigerians who qualify, it can only imply that the few available lecturers which are sufficient for Nigeria may now want to immigrate to South Africa. It will also mean that it is now easier for Nigerian businessmen, in a country currently in dire need of capital investment, to relocate scarce capital to South Africa.
Besides the point of talent and capital drain which is now being proliferated with such a deal, the risk coefficient of movements from Nigeria to South Africa has also jacked up considerably as long as the pending xenophobic crisis is not permanently resolved. Mere assurances by the South African president of security for foreigners are not enough to guarantee the security of lives and property. Xenophobia is innate in a population and ordinary political rhetoric hardly changes the mind of an indoctrinated citizenry. It may not be too long again before some South Africans, who may now have become more aware of inward movements into South Africa, may feel that Nigerians are once again stifling the few opportunities available in their country.
In essence, as much as this new deal with South Africa is laudable on the surface; the presidency may need to sit down with the Foreign Minister and the real Nigerians living in South Africa, so as to avert any bad blood which may spring up in the near future, as well as to ensure that Nigeria and the Nigerian people benefit from the improved relations between the two African giants.
Featured Image Source: The South African