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Cementing a special relationship

The inaugural meeting of a South African-Nigerian commission, designed to cement the growing relationship between the two regional superpowers, opened in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Monday, news reports said.

The binational commission, jointly chaired by South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Nigerian Vice-President Abubakar Atiku, aims to explore areas of cooperation over two days of talks that are expected to include a wide range of commercial and development agreements.

The vision of a “strategic relationship”, a key policy goal of South African President Thabo Mbeki, is shared by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

According to Garth le Pere, director of the South African-based Institute of Global Dialogue, the new understanding - made possible by the Nigerian military’s return to the barracks in May - has both political and economic dimensions.

“South Africa has a wider continental, if not global, vision of this relationship,” he told IRIN on Monday. It includes collaboration on conflict resolution in Africa, and a joint approach to strategic issues such as negotiations at the Seattle round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in November.

Economically, Nigeria’s development “has been retarded by a lost decade under military rule,” le Pere said. “There are so many comparative advantages the South African private sector has that could benefit both countries.”

According to South Africa’s ‘Business Day’ newspaper, South African investors have already begun examining opportunities in key sectors like telecommunications, power generation and distribution, and the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s dilapidated infrastructure.

The cellular phone company MTN reportedly expects to invest more than US $100 million in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector. The South African state-owned oil company, Sasol, is also in a joint venture with the US oil giant Chevron to build a US $500 million gas-to-diesel plant, expected to come on stream by 2003.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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