S.Africa, Nigeria: African giants battle for econmic supremacy

JOHANNESBURG: When South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma visited Nigeria last week he was on a delicate mission to mend rifts between the continent’s two economic powerhouses.

From economic rivalry to political friction, relations between South Africa and Nigeria have been strained in recent years. The election of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari into office last May did not immediately ease the tension.

When Zuma visited Abuja last week, Buhari set aside diplomacy and accused one of South Africa’s largest companies of failing the country in its fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. Telecoms giant MTN was fined $3.9 billion for missing a deadline to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards, a legal requirement aimed at hampering the militant Islamists.

Buhari said MTN was “very slow” in cutting off the lines and that the unregistered lines were used by “terrorists” and “contributed to the casualties”.

The Nigerian government’s concern “was basically on the security, not the fine imposed on the MTN,” he said. But MTN is not the only South African company riding rough waves in Nigeria.

Hotel and resort chain group Sun International is also a target of investigation by the country’s economic financial crimes commission. “We have an exemplary track record of operating in many countries over the past 30 years, but the difficulties we have experienced in Nigeria are unprecedented,” Michael Farr, Sun International group’s general manager for communications, told AFP.

“We’ll continue to evaluate the situation and therefore our options.” Africa’s largest satellite broadcaster, Johannesburg-headquartered Multichoice, last year came under pressure to reduce its tariffs following accusations by the Nigerian authorities that it was abusing its dominant position. AFP