Cape Town - President Goodluck Jonathan has said that Nigeria and South Africa must give priority to intra-regional trade and play leading roles in boosting inter-regional trade in the continent.
Jonathan made this known on Tuesday at the start of the Nigeria/South Africa Business Forum which took place in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday.
According to the president, the forum which has been long overdue, is expected to bring significant improvement to trade and investment between Nigeria and South Africa .
"My aspiration is that the vision of President Jacob Zuma and I will be realised in the near future," Jonathan said.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the conference said that deliberations at the forum focused on mines, power, banking, finance, oil and gas.
He said the success story of the forum would not only bring about stronger bilateral and economic relation between the two countries but would strengthen bonds of business and friendship among Nigerians and South Africans.
"The forum is also expected to improve on other socio-economic activities, as well as increase the volume and value of trade between the two countries,’’ Jonathan said.
In remarks, President Jacob Zuma said that the two countries already have a growing and warm bilateral relations, structured through the Bi-National Commission which was inaugurated in 1999.
"We have today witnessed the signing of new agreements and Memorandum of understanding between our countries," he said.
Our ministers will ensure the effective implementation of these instruments and the conclusion of outstanding ones.
"Your excellence, I am happy that we have decided to give priority to economic cooperation between our countries during this visit.
"I am certain that South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum that is meeting today in Cape Town will further boost economic relations between our two countries and peoples," Zuma said.
He said over 100 companies in South Africa were doing business in Nigeria, with the biggest investment being in the telecommunication sector.
"We will welcome the participation of South Africa business in other sectors of the Nigerian economy such as engineering, construction, media, banking, retail, hospitality, oil and gas exploration and services.
"We have also seen kin interest from Nigeria business concerns to invest and do business in South Africa across a number of sectors," Zuma said.
He said both countries share a common vision on issues of political and economic integration in Africa.
The Nigeria Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, said that the "business forum between two countries which are the largest economies in the continent is a step in the right direction".
"The signing of the MoU between the two countries is a pointer to the resolve by the two countries to drive and expand the economy of Africa and create more jobs for its teeming population .
He said the business community in the two countries have decided to take economic relationship between the two countries to the next level.
"Today Africa is recognised as the new and last frontier for economic development worldwide, a continent with high growth rate and high returns, where investment opportunity generate the highest return on investment in the world," Aganga said.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, leader of the Nigerian business delegation, said the issue of visas needed to be addressed for business dealing between the two countries to thrive.
"No serious businessmen will go and wait for 10 days for issuance of visas.
"There is need for partnership in area that the two countries have comparative advantages in mining, automobile industry so that we can have synergy," Dangote said.
He said South Africa and Nigeria should create tax holiday for investment on bilateral bases in addition to promoting government policies.
Dangote stressed the need for mutual trust and respect to engender confidence between the parties so that businesses could grow in the two countries.
"There is need to set up a Nigeria-South Africa trade and investment commission to be made up of 10 businessmen each from the two countries.
"This will foster better relations as we explore business opportunities in both countries with attendant benefits to our citizens as we strive to eliminate abject poverty from Africa," Dangote said.
President of South Africa Black Business Council, Xoleni Qhubeke said the two business delegations had robust business discussions on ways of growing business in the continent..
"There is a common purpose around industrialisation, infrastructure development, and there is enormous opportunity for businesses in both countries," Qhubeke said.