Nigeria woos South African investors

Johannesburg, August 29:

A three-day long conferene which took place this week in Johannesburg has highlighted the possibilities for increased trade between South Africa and Nigeria. The ‘Nigeria and South Africa Business Investment Forum 2005’ kicked off August 24 in South Africa’s commercial centre, mostly with the aim of attracting South African entrepreneurs to the West African country. Over 300 delegates were in attendance. Nigeria is currently South Africa’s biggest trading partner in West Africa and its third largest on the continent after Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Nigerian ambassador to South Africa Tunji Olagunju told those at the gathering.

“Still, Nigeria’s trade is mostly with Europe and North America,” he noted, “This must change.”

Figures provided by Nigerian officials indicate that the value South Africa’s exports to the country increased from $45 million in 1998 to $456 million last year. Imports have also increased — from $76 million in 1998 to $800 million in 2004, with oil accounting for the lion’s share of this rise.

“South Africans have come to me in greater numbers. Next to them, I would say, are the Chinese,” Mustafa Bello, chief executive of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, said. Nigeria is also planning to hold investment forums in China, India, the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the UAE.

“We have a lot to offer,” said Bello, “We have proven crude oil reserve of 24.1 billion barrels, 120 trillion cubic feet of gas and 72 million hectares of arable land. We also have minerals like gold, coal, iron ore and manganese.” Those South Afric-an firms which have established a presence in Nigeria include leading supermarket chain Shoprite and telecommunications giant MTN.