The SA-NCC expressed concern that the tensions had escalated to a point where businesses were now being targeted.
SA-NCC President Suresh Chaytoo said South African and Nigerian companies employ thousands of people in both countries, and warned of ill-informed, short-term solutions to address an intractable problem with roots in the socio-economic structures of many African countries.
Chaytoo also cautioned about the unintended economic consequences of targeting foreign owned companies - some of which were among the largest contributors to public revenues in these markets - as an expression of socio-economic frustrations.
“There is a strong and positive symbiosis between the two countries that has benefits for both as both markets provide jobs where companies are invested.”
Trade between the countries is significant. Total trade between the countries has risen from R174 million in 1999 to almost R3 billion in 2008 to R66 billion in 2014. The trade balance is significantly in favour of Nigeria, a main exporter of crude oil to Pretoria, with the value of exports to South Africa reaching R38.5 billion in 2015.
Chaytoo said the escalating tensions cried out for strong leadership to address the underlying socio-economic challenges that threaten to undermine commercial relations between the two African economic powerhouses.
He said while some SA-NCC corporate members were supporting relief efforts to alleviate the plight of Nigerian nationals affected by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, more pragmatic and sustainable solutions needed to be found to prevent a recurrence of the conflict.
Condemning both the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa, and reprisal events in Nigeria, the SA-NCC said the challenges between nationals at some levels have the potential to reverse the countries’ laudable efforts to attract foreign direct invest and improve intra-Africa trade relations.
Chaytoo explained that, as the last growth frontier left in the word, Africa can lift itself out of its socio-economic challenges through governments and businesses working together to drive inclusive growth.
He said Africa had made great strides since decolonisation to end conflict and improve governance through democratisation and macro-economic reforms. “Accordingly, economic and political relations
between African countries, and indeed with the rest of the world, have improved admirably over the past few decades.
“It is also critical that, as part of nurturing healthy foreign relations and strengthening economic ties between our countries, the challenge of person-to-person relations among African nationals needs to be addressed,” Chaytoo said.
He added that Africa’s progress depends on Africans harmoniously exploiting the economic potential of the African continent. “Unless Africans take bold steps to improve their socio-economic relations, Africa’s economic potential will benefit others – and not Africans,” said Chaytoo.