Interview by Victor Gotevbe
The South African High Commissioner was originally from an Academic background until he made a detour into the Diplomatic Corp following the invitation from late President Nelson Mandela. Prior to becoming a diplomat he was incarcerated for about five years and was placed under house arrest because of his views and efforts in trying to influence the thinking of his students as a lecturer of Philosophy. He resisted initially being a diplomat because of his love for education. Eventually, in 1998 he had his first posting to Mauritius where he learnt amongst other things about tourism and how it can contribute to national economic development. He has served in several capacities in other countries before he was posted to Nigeria. In this interview, His Excellency, Mr. Lulu Louis Mnguni shares some thoughts relating to South Africa and Nigeria’s relationship, tourism potentials and how the negative sentiments arising from anti-immigrant activities in South Africa have been curtailed. Excerpt:
South Africa attracted R64.3-billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) between 1 April and 31 December 2015, the first three quarters of the financial year – surpassing its target of R45-billion by almost R20-billion. Does this amount reflect any Investment from Nigeria?
No, it does unfortunately not include any new investment from Nigeria. As you are most probably aware, the biggest single Nigerian investor in South Africa is Mr Dangote through his company SEPHAKU Cement which entered the South African market in 2006 with a capital input of R 779 million. The capital market share of Sephaku Cement in November 2015 stood at R 908 million on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This is quite a success story for the Dangote Group.
The FDI of R 64,3 billion comes mostly from South Africa’s traditional trade and commercial partners like, the BRICS countries, Europe and the US.
Tourism seems to be an essential sector of your economy, contributing about 9% of your GDP. What lessons can Nigeria learn from as it relates to unlocking the full potential of tourism in Nigeria?
The growing success of South Africa’s tourism sector lies in the fact that we have been able to harness both external and internal tourism. South Africa receives on average about 10 million foreign tourists per annum, which includes about 50 000 Nigerian visitors, which is an important source of foreign revenue. However, in order to ensure that the sector grows and thereby increasing employment, South Africa placed special emphasis on developing internal tourism – basically meaning that we are encouraging South Africans to visit and experience their own country. I am sure that you are aware of the fact that under the apartheid regime, internal tourism was completely stifled as black South Africans were not allowed to move around in their own country. The advent of our freedom in 1994 has of course put an end to this and Government has encouraged South Africans to explore their country. Internal tourism has been growing at about 7-10% per annum on a year-to-year basis. This has of course seen the flourishing of secondary industries like tour guides, bed-and-breakfasts and cultural shows. The knock-on effect of the industry has been impressive in terms of drawing more people into the industry.
Nigeria is blessed with a large population, three and a half times that of South Africa. There is thus a substantial internal tourism market that Nigeria could benefit from. Government will therefore need to encourage private investment in the sector through possible public-private collaboration. I am also convinced that Nigeria has all the attributes in terms of interesting places to visit and explore which could be integrated into a holistic strategy to promote tourism to the country.
You were a key player at the African Union day held last week in Abuja, how significant was this event for South Africa and the rest of Africa?
South Africa celebrates Africa Day with pride
On Africa Day we celebrate the triumph of the African peoples against slavery, colonialism, apartheid and other political ills and forms of subjugation. We are also celebrating the progress we are making in building a better Africa working together within the ambit of the African Union.
On Africa Day, we pay homage to the great African men and women who fought tirelessly to ensure that Africa is freed from bondage, and to ensure the return of African dignity.
These were selfless leaders who wanted to see only the best for the African continent, and wanted to see. We want an Africa with modern infrastructure, where one can fly from one country to another within the continent, without having to go via Europe.
We want an Africa where people are able to drive or ride by rail from one country to another with greater ease.
It is for this reason that we are working, under the auspices of the African Union, to build infrastructure that will boost economic development in our continent.
The continent has advanced on many fronts especially in strengthening democracy, peace, stability and socio-economic development. Africa Day is an opportunity to celebrate African identity and heritage.
In view of the current economic situation of Nigeria, what effect has it had on the bilateral relationships between Nigeria and South Africa?
The current economic situation, to be fair, cannot be looked at as solely a Nigerian situation, it is a global problem which affects the developing economies more, because there is a slowdown in the demand for natural resources and most of the developing world, particularly African countries, depend heavily on selling natural resources for revenue. So when demand slowdown then prices drop and our national revenues are reduced. So that is what is happening not only within the global oil market, but even with other commodities like gold, platinum, iron ore, etc.
If anything the current situation has served as a calling on African countries, particularly South Africa and Nigeria, but even other leading economies on the continent, to trade more with one-another, intra-Africa trade can uplift our economies and to an extent shield us from the global market instabilities. This initiative has to be led by South Africa and Nigeria on the continent, for others to follow, just as South Africa and Nigeria have led the renewal of the OAU to AU and the development of an African Economic blue-print NEPAD, so too can they lead by example, in the promotion and enhancement of intra-Africa trade.
The situation also calls for us (South Africa) and Nigeria to advocate for the processing plants/ factories to be brought closer to the raw materials, our natural resources, beneficiation is the key driver for intra-Africa trade, so that we do not only trade in primary commodities but also in processed goods and services as well. An example in this regard is the South African mining expertise which can assist in the exploration of Nigerian solid minerals and thus in the shift towards diversification of the economy. Hence you find a lot of South African companies doing business in Nigeria, providing employment and helping to further develop the country in various sectors, like MTN in communication, SASOL in oil and Gas and Shoprite in retail sectors and a lot more in other sectors.
You have witnessed in early March this year that His Excellency President Jacob Zuma paid the first State Visit to Nigeria at the invitation of His Excellency President MahummaduBuhari and this has signified the need for the two nations to intensify their cooperation and working together for the benefit of not only our peoples, but the people of the entire continent as well, under the prevailing global economic challenges.
Sometime last year, the Nigerian government and people frowned over the raging xenophobic attacks on its citizens and other Africans. Has there been any report of any such attack after it condemnation?
Over a year ago, South Africa fell victim to anti-immigrant activities, mainly in the form of looting foreign national’s shops and other criminal activities, in isolated parts of the country, that is parts of Johannesburg and Durban. As South Africa, as a Government and its People, we unequivocally condemned those criminal activities against foreign nationals. A Ministerial-task team was set up by President Jacob Zuma with the aim of tackling the root causes of this anti-immigrant sentiment amongst certain sectors of our society. In various parts of the country, South African citizens held peaceful protests against xenophobia and all forms of discrimination. They reaffirmed that indeed the majority of South Africans are tolerant and non-discriminatory. In KwaZulu-Natal, for example, the former Premier SenzoMchunu and eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo led a march in an effort to promote peaceful co-existence. The fruits of our labour in curtailing these negative sentiments against foreign nationals have indeed yielded positive results. We have not had such incidents since and our success is still work-in-progress, which is why we continue to engage with our African sister countries to also continue to play a key role to address other causes of xenophobia.