LAGOS (AFP) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari headed to South Africa yesterday for a state visit after an outburst of xenophobic violence in and around Johannesburg stirred tensions between Africa’s leading economic powerhouses.
Buhari and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa will meet today to discuss bolstering trade ties and political cooperation as both struggle to kickstart their stuttering economies.
But the recent violence in South Africa targetting foreigners – including Nigerians – threatens to dominate the talks.
The three-day state visit, the first by a Nigerian leader since 2013, was planned before mobs descended on foreign-owned properties in and around Johannesburg in early September.
The violence – in which at least 12 people were killed – sparked fury in Nigeria and saw hundreds of migrant workers repatriated to the country.
Some South African businesses in Nigeria were forced to close shop temporarily after they were targetted by revenge attacks.
The two governments dispatched special envoys to each other’s capitals as Pretoria offered “sincere apologies” in a bid to calm the anger.
The presidency in Abuja said Buhari would use the state visit to discuss the “welfare of Nigerians, and find common grounds for building harmonious relations with their hosts”.