Address at the Meeting of Nigerian and
South African Business
2 October 2000
Minister Mustapha Bello
Chief Kola Daisi
Mr Bumi Oni
Nigerian Business Leaders
The South African business delegation
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honoured to be here with you at the International
Conference Centre in Abuja to address the Nigerian and
South African Business Forum so that together we are
able to explore important economic matters pertaining
to our two economies as well as to our respective regions
In his recent epic poem "Mental Flight",
Ben Okri writes the following lines about our present
The new era is already here:
Here the new time begins anew.
The new era happens every day.
Every day is a new world,
A new calendar.
All great moments, all great eras,
Are just every moment
And every day writ large.
Thousands of years of loving, failing, killing,
Creating, surprising, oppressing,
And thinking ought now to start
To bear fruit, to deliver their rich harvest."
I think we will all agree that out of the gloom that
has defined our existence for much of the twentieth
century, a new era is in the making. This new time,
from which will emerge a new African world, must be
made by all of us working together.
This new Africa will emerge out of commitment, hard
work and strategic partnerships amongst all of us as
Africans. Thus we meet here today in order to work out
ways in which together we can "bear fruit"
and "deliver the rich harvest" that our countries
and continent deserve so much.
But let's start with re-stating the obvious. Throughout
the departing century, Africa has faced a very difficult
economic situation occasioned mainly by the fact that
we were colonial dependencies or subject to white minority
domination. This resulted in the exploitation both of
African labour and our raw materials for the enrichment
of the Western countries.
We would all agree that the current situation whereby
Africa has been unable to grow economically, sustain
the industries it has, compete with other regions of
the world and feed its people, is a consequence of the
legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Our acceptance of and participation in the construction
and maintenance of a neo-colonial order has meant that
we, as Africans, we have not sufficiently used our collective
abilities and wisdom consciously and deliberately to
alter the path that colonialism had designed for us,
to construct a developmental process that would make
our economies vibrant and viable.
Yesterday we celebrated the 40th birthday of an independent
Federal Republic of Nigeria. This important and happy
event has also served as a reminder to all of us that
we too must accept responsibility for the fact that
we have not used our decades of independence to construct
such vibrant and viable economies.
This failure has had a further debilitating effect
on our economies and contributed to our economic marganilisation
from the current processes of globalisation.
It is in this context that there are a number of challenges
facing Africa in general and Nigeria and South Africa
The growth, development and modernisation of the African
economy must and will be driven by a sharp and sustained
growth in investments. This is a first requirement we
must pursue with the greatest possible vigour, focusing
on the appropriate sectors of our economies.
This makes it imperative that we do everything in our
power to discourage the unproductive export of scarce
capital to the developed world by our own nationals.
In this regard, I would like to express our firm support
and appreciation for the steps taken by President Olusegun
Obasanjo and the rest of the Nigerian Government to
locate and repatriate the resources illegally acquired
and exported during the years of military rule.
We also consider of great importance the work going
on to end and punish the theft of the resources of the
parastatal organisations, resulting in their progression
towards their inefficiency and collapse.
I am arguing for the proper utilisation of limited
domestic savings properly to impact on the growth of
our economies. The lesson we are all learning from the
important work you are doing is that we should not allow
these limited domestic savings to be misappropriated
by corrupt and unpatriotic individuals, resulting in
the further impoverishment of the millions of our people.
It is in this light that the issue of the foreign debt
assumes great importance. The fact of the matter is
that many of our countries are net exporters of capital
to the developed world. Clearly, this situation is both
unacceptable and unsustainable. Accordingly, as governments
we have an obligation to pursue the issue of debt relief
and cancellation with great energy, to convince the
developed world that it is also in their interest that
the debt questions dealt with as a matter of urgency.
This is particularly important in the light of the
fact that even where we have already created the conditions
necessary for foreign direct investment, many of us
have not experienced any significant capital inflows
To some extent, we have to defeat the "Afro-pessimism"
that lies at the root of this reluctance to invest in
the African economies by demonstrating our own confidence
in our economies by using such resources as we have
actually to achieve higher rates of economic growth
It is one of our on-going responsibilities, as a government
and business people, to engage the developed countries
for them to actualise the commitments they have made
in many international fora to assist with the development
of the countries of the South, and Africa in particular.
We stand a better chance of achieving results in this
regard if we ourselves begin to show that with the necessary
commitment we can even develop centres of excellence,
utilising such comparative advantage as we may have
to rebuild our economies.
Among other things, we need a comprehensive and rigorous
plan of human resource development. And in developing
this human capital, we have to take a long-term view
and work towards targets in producing sufficient expertise
in critical areas such as in education, the sciences,
communication and information technology, engineering,
economics, management and health.
This would help us to position ourselves strategically,
so as to both reap the benefits of indigenous expertise
and also to strengthen our niche markets that should
give us a competitive edge in the global economy.
Nigeria is South Africa's biggest trading partner in
West Africa. The potential to expand our relations is
demonstrated by the fact that trade between our two
countries more than doubled from 1998 to 1999, rising
from R730 million in 1998 to R1,7 billion in 1999.
Our geographic locations, our histories and our shares
vision of the future means that we have to utilise the
different strengths of our economies to enhance and
consolidate investment and trade relations and improve
the exchange of high quality goods and services for
Even prior to the launching of the Nigeria/South Africa
Binational Commission, technical and trade visits looking
at the prospects for joint ventures and the identification
of areas of co-operation produced positive results.
Our two countries are already engaged in a number of
joint economic initiatives and I trust that our two
delegations here today will use this opportunity to
further strengthen and develop these partnerships.
In this regard, it is important that we speed up the
work that we are doing together to construct and rehabilitate
rail and road infrastructure so that the rich potential
of Nigeria can be realised not only for the people of
this country but also for the whole region as well as
Our mutually beneficial partnership in the telecommunications
sector must ensure that we have both the infrastructure
and expertise to enter the global economy on a favourable
footing so that we are able to harness the process of
globalisation to the benefit of our people.
One of the negative effects of industrialisation in
our countries has been the decline of our people's participation
in agriculture, resulting in insufficient food production,
despite the fact that we have the wherewithal to be
our own breadbasket. As we revive our economies, one
of the challenges is to reprioritise agriculture as
a critical and strategic element of the attainment of
Nigeria has developed capacity in the crude oil and
gas industries that can be shared to enhance our expertise
in management, exploration and technical spheres. Transfer
of technology between our two countries has already
made it possible to capture the gas currently being
flared in Nigeria's oilfields. I think as business people
gathered here today we have to take advantage of the
critical areas of partnership that the Nigeria-South
African Binational Commission has identified.
The agreements we have signed have enable public-private
partnerships in some of the areas that we have already
mentioned, including transport, energy, communication
and information technology, and also mining, and the
At the same time, we need to create a business milieu
that is informed by integrity, honesty and hard work,
consolidated through agreed codes and ethics. In this
regard, we have to rebel against the tendency to accept
as normal, bribes, kickbacks and the corruption of business
We need to create a business milieu in which entrepreneurial
creativity, flair and innovation can flourish. It is
in this way that we can improve our businesses and inspire
the rest of society to improve productivity and competitiveness.
Once again in his poem, Ben Okri asks of all of us:
"Will you be at the harvest,
Among the gatherers of new fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and celebrants
Of freedom, realisers of great dreams."
It has to be that those who will be "at the harvest"
and "among the gatherers of new fruits" must
be the ordinary people of Nigeria, of South Africa and
of the entire African continent. As we prepare to join
"the warriors and celebrants of freedom" and
"realisers of great dreams" we must do so
within the partnerships that we have referred to, but
also in the context of our regional co-operation within
SADC and ECOWAS, so that our efforts benefit no only
our individual countries but also helps regional development.
A prosperous South Africa and Nigeria should mean a
prosperous SADC and ECOWAS. In fact, it must mean a
prosperous Africa, for sustained socio-economic development
is dependent on this. To achieve these objectives, a
heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of our business
The realisation of the dreams of our countries, our
regions, our continent and the millions of ordinary
people depend on the foresight of our business people
to help with the radical transformation of our economies
so as to ensure a better life for all.
The governments of Nigeria and South Africa are firmly
committed to work together and to co-operate with our
respective business communities to ensure that we achieve
I therefore wish you success in your own deliberations
and expansion of the economic relations between our
I thank you.