Uche Usim, Abuja
Failure of Nigeria and South Africa governments to curtail xenophobic attacks which escalated in both countries last week, is now threatening a bilateral trade relationship officially put at $60 billion.
This is aside the yet-to-be quantified loss in reprisal on various South African brands in Nigeria, even as other African nations joined the fray to protest South Africa’s alleged tacit support for the arsonists.
Consul-General of South Africa High Commission, Mr. Darkey Africa, said the bilateral trade and other diplomatic ties between both nations, which are currently strained, should not be allowed to snap because of the potential devastating effects on both economies.
Already, about 1,000 people have reportedly taken refuge in halls set up for foreigners displaced by xenophobic violence in the Johannesburg region, even as the Federal Government ordered the evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home.
Foreign trade figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that in the first quarter of 2019, South Africa was one of Nigeria’s top five export destinations, having received goods valued at N325.5 billion or 7.2 per cent from Nigeria within the period.
An international relations professional working for the Federal Government, who declined to be named, told Daily Sun that the latest attacks on Nigerians in South Africa are beyond xenophobia, but driven more by stoked economic tensions and growing inequality.
“They also point at signs of impending collapses and class war between the poor and the rich fueled by failures of leadership in both countries as several narratives show”, he explained.
A lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, corroborated this and added: “We must learn the right lessons from the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Anti-immigrants nationalism is on the rise all over the world. As socio-economic opportunities shrink and want is magnified, internal xenophobia will set in within countries, including Nigeria. Class inequities must thus be tackled.”
Analysts insist that due to government’s inability to evolve sustained economic growth through policy, both Africa’s largest economies are plagued by frightening level of unemployment, particularly within the swelling youth population, resulting in high poverty and susceptibility to criminality.
In Nigeria’s case, it is now home to the world’s largest population of poor people. Even worse, low human capital spending suggests the country will make very little progress in the immediate future to correct the blight. Nigeria and South Africa saw their economies suffer recession in 2017 and have not made significant comeback since.
The accumulated effect of the aforesaid is that the number of Nigerians fleeing the country and seeking greener pasture elsewhere, via horrifying circumstances, has grown.