Nigeria and South Africa: Africa's sleeping giants?

21May 2019
Correpondent
The Guardian
Nigeria and South Africa: Africa's sleeping giants?

In a year packed with many African elections, Nigeria went to the polls in February and South Africa voted last week.

By Oluwaseun Tella

This begs the question of the significance of the elections on both countries' relations and influence in Africa. Abuja and Pretoria enjoy a remarkable status in Africa.

This stems from their coercive or hard power (economic and military capacity) and attractive or soft power (culture, values, and policies) that have positioned them as regional powers and find expression in their influential roles in their respective subregions, the continent, and the world at large.

In terms of hard power, with GDPs of $397 billion and $349 billion in 2018, Nigeria and South Africa respectively are the dominant economic powers in Africa and are also well ranked in military spending and capability.

Nigeria's peacekeeping efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and South Africa's in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have rendered them major peacemakers on the continent. Regarding soft power projection, Abuja and Pretoria's power of attraction radiates across the continent and beyond.

Nigeria arguably enjoys the most soft power in terms of the culture transmitted by its entertainment industry. This is exemplified by the reach of Nigerian movie (Nollywood) and music industries across Africa and further afield.

South Africa's soft power is derived from its liberal 1996 constitution that is regarded as one of the most progressive in the world; its post-apartheid political settlement that prevented racial Armageddon; charismatic leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki; its reputable universities that attract African, American, Asian, and European students; and its multinational corporations that operate across Africa.

Nonetheless, internal, regional, and external constraints undermine the capacity of these states to play an effective leadership role.

The domestic challenges include high levels of poverty, unemployment, and slow economic growth. Regional impediments include envy and non-acceptance of Nigeria and South Africa's leadership by other African states; and the external constraints underscore the influence of great powers including the United States (US), China, and France that circumscribe both African powers' influence on the continent.

With 87 million people living in extreme poverty, Nigeria has emerged as the country with the largest number of extreme poor and an unemployment rate of 23%. Its domestic challenges have distracted the country from playing its role in regional politics, as citizens have shown little enthusiasm for African integration.

For example, the Nigeria Labour Congress and powerful business interests opposed Nigeria becoming a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the African Union (AU) summit in Rwanda in 2018, where member states signed this agreement. Despite the potential benefits of AfCFTA, Abuja remains reluctant to sign the accord.

The major domestic challenges that have prevented South Africa from effectively pursuing its foreign policy goals are poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

The country's unemployment rate stands at 27% and more than 17 million South Africans (over 30% of the total population) rely on social grants. Successive post-apartheid governments have grappled with how to lift the black majority out of poverty.

Accordingly, resources that could be useful to promoting South African foreign policy are diverted to addressing domestic challenges. This is evident in the increasing decline in South Africa's commitment to its regional obligations.

In recent years, South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and its National Defence Force's (SANDF) budgets have increasingly declined, and Pretoria withdrew most of its peacemakers from Darfur by 2016.

An important characteristic of an effective regional power is legitimacy in its own subregion. Both Nigeria and South Africa have struggled to gain acceptance from their regional counterparts. Nigeria's peacekeeping efforts have been contested by Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal. Some African states have also openly rejected Nigeria's leadership in international forums.

In 1977 and 1993, most African states voted against the country becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, while in 2009, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo did not support Abuja's candidacy, creating the impression that it could not rely on these countries to support its quest for a permanent seat on an expanded Security Council.

While apartheid has ended, the authoritarian regime's destabilisation of its neighbours still lingers in the minds of Southern African leaders. Angola, Zimbabwe, and even Namibia have challenged South Africa's regional leadership objectives.

This was evident in their opposition to military intervention in the DRC in 1998, South Africa's failed bid for sanctions to be imposed on the Nigerian military regime of General Sani Abacha in 1995, and its recent unsuccessful attempt to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Through initiatives such as the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), Washington has sought to promote its economic and security interests on the continent. This suggests that Nigeria and South Africa's influence in the economy and security of other African countries is weakened by America's substantial influence.

China has emerged as Africa's largest trading partner with commerce worth $204 billion in 2018. Beijing's incursions into Africa undermine Nigeria and South Africa's influence in two significant ways.

First, robust economic relations between China and African countries dictate that Abuja and Pretoria play a diminished role in African economies.

Second, China's "no-strings attached" policy could undermine the efficacy of Nigeria and South Africa's foreign policy of democracy and human rights promotion in Africa.

France is another major actor that has challenged the influence of the African powerhouses on the continent.

This was evident in the 2010 crisis following Laurent Gbagbo's rejection of the verdict of the country's electoral commission that declared Alassane Ouattara Côte d'Ivoire's president.

While Nigeria and South Africa dragged their feet, France dislodged Gbagbo from power. Paris was also the dominant player in the Congo and Chad crises.

Given these realities, Nigeria and South Africa have struggled to act as effective regional powers in their subregion.

To play a meaningful role, the new administrations of Muhammadu Buhari and Cyril Ramaphosa in both countries need to work closely together to tackle these obstacles by paying serious attention to their respective domestic circumstances. This will curtail the perpetual Great Power incursions into Africa, and subsequently raise Nigeria and South Africa's profiles in African affairs.

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans;  to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho.  South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 per cent of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry,  divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of Whites, Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is the fourth highest number in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most coloured and white South Africans; English reflects the legacy of British colonialism, and is commonly used in public and commercial life, though it is fourth-ranked as a spoken first language. The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. However, the vast majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to recover its rights from the dominant white minority, with this struggle playing a large role in the country's recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalising previous racial segregation. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the African National Congress (ANC) and other anti-apartheid activists both inside and outside the country, the repeal of discriminatory laws began in the mid-1980s.

Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have held political representation in the country's liberal democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "rainbow nation" to describe the country's multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid. The World Bank classifies South Africa as an upper-middle-income economy, and a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second-largest in Africa, and the 34th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa. However, poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day. Nevertheless, South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.  

 

The name "South Africa" is derived from the country's geographic location at the southern tip of Africa. Upon formation, the country was named the Union of South Africa in English, reflecting its origin from the unification of four formerly separate British colonies. Since 1961, the long form name in English has been the "Republic of South Africa". In Dutch, the country was named Republiek van Zuid-Afrika, replaced in 1983 by the Afrikaans Republiek van Suid-Afrika. Since 1994, the Republic has had an official name in each of its 11 official languages.

Mzansi, derived from the Xhosa noun umzantsi meaning "south", is a colloquial name for South Africa,[20][21] while some Pan-Africanist political parties prefer the term "Azania".[22]

History

Prehistoric archaeology

South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological and human-fossil sites in the world. Archaeologists have recovered extensive fossil remains from a series of caves in Gauteng Province. The area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been branded "the Cradle of Humankind". The sites include Sterkfontein, one of the richest sites for hominin fossils in the world. Other sites include Swartkrans, Gondolin Cave Kromdraai, Coopers Cave and Malapa. Raymond Dart identified the first hominin fossil discovered in Africa, the Taung Child (found near Taung) in 1924. Further hominin remains have come from the sites of Makapansgat in Limpopo Province, Cornelia and Florisbad in the Free State Province, Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Klasies River Mouth in Eastern Cape Province and Pinnacle Point, Elandsfontein and Die Kelders Cave in Western Cape Province.

These finds suggest that various hominid species existed in South Africa from about three million years ago, starting with Australopithecus africanus.  There followed species including Australopithecus sediba, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo helmei, Homo naledi and modern humans (Homo sapiens). Modern humans have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 170,000 years.

Bantu expansion

 

Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo River (now the northern border with Botswana and Zimbabwe) by the 4th or 5th century CE (see Bantu expansion). They displaced, conquered and absorbed the original Khoisan speakers, the Khoikhoi and San peoples. The Bantu slowly moved south. The earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoisan people. The Xhosa reached the Great Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province. As they migrated, these larger Iron Age populations displaced or assimilated earlier peoples. In Mpumalanga Province, several stone circles have been found along with the stone arrangement that has been named Adam's Calendar.

Portuguese contacts

At the time of European contact, the dominant ethnic group were Bantu-speaking peoples who had migrated from other parts of Africa about one thousand years before. The two major historic groups were the Xhosa and Zulu peoples.

In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias led the first European voyage to land in southern Africa. On 4 December, he landed at Walfisch Bay (now known as Walvis Bay in present-day Namibia). This was south of the furthest point reached in 1485 by his predecessor, the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão (Cape Cross, north of the bay). Dias continued down the western coast of southern Africa. After 8 January 1488, prevented by storms from proceeding along the coast, he sailed out of sight of land and passed the southernmost point of Africa without seeing it. He reached as far up the eastern coast of Africa as, what he called, Rio do Infante, probably the present-day Groot River, in May 1488, but on his return he saw the Cape, which he first named Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms). His King, John II, renamed the point Cabo da Boa Esperança, or Cape of Good Hope, as it led to the riches of the East Indies. Dias' feat of navigation was later immortalised in Luís de Camões' Portuguese epic poem, The Lusiads (1572).

Dutch colonisation

 

 

By the early 17th century, Portugal's maritime power was starting to decline, and English and Dutch merchants competed to oust Lisbon from its lucrative monopoly on the spice trade. Representatives of the British East India Company did call sporadically at the Cape in search of provisions as early as 1601, but later came to favour Ascension Island and St. Helena as alternative ports of refuge. Dutch interest was aroused after 1647, when two employees of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were shipwrecked there for several months. The sailors were able to survive by obtaining fresh water and meat from the natives.  They also sowed vegetables in the fertile soil. Upon their return to Holland, they reported favourably on the Cape's potential as a "warehouse and garden" for provisions to stock passing ships for long voyages.

In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape sea route, Jan van Riebeeck established a victualling station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company.  In time, the Cape became home to a large population of "vrijlieden", also known as "vrijburgers" (lit. free citizens), former Company employees who stayed in Dutch territories overseas after serving their contracts. Dutch traders also imported thousands of slaves to the fledgling colony from Indonesia, Madagascar, and parts of eastern Africa.[36] Some of the earliest mixed race communities in the country were formed through unions between vrijburgers, their slaves, and various indigenous peoples. This led to the development of a new ethnic group, the Cape Coloureds, most of whom adopted the Dutch language and Christian faith.

The eastward expansion of Dutch colonists ushered in a series of wars with the southwesterly migrating Xhosa tribe, known as the Xhosa Wars, as both sides competed for the pastureland necessary to graze their cattle near the Great Fish River. Vrijburgers who became independent farmers on the frontier were known as Boers, with some adopting semi-nomadic lifestyles being denoted as trekboers. The Boers formed loose militias, which they termed commandos, and forged alliances with Khoisan groups to repel Xhosa raids. Both sides launched bloody but inconclusive offensives, and sporadic violence, often accompanied by livestock theft, remained common for several decades.

British colonisation

Main articles: Invasion of the Cape Colony, Cape Colony, British Bechuanaland, and Colony of Natal

Great Britain occupied Cape Town between 1795 and 1803 to prevent it from falling under the control of the French First Republic, which had invaded the Low Countries. Despite briefly returning to Dutch rule under the Batavian Republic in 1803, the Cape was occupied again by the British in 1806. Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it was formally ceded to Great Britain and became an integral part of the British Empire. British emigration to South Africa began around 1818, subsequently culminating in the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. The new colonists were induced to settle for a variety of reasons, namely to increase the size of the European workforce and to bolster frontier regions against Xhosa incursions.

In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka. Shaka's warfare indirectly led to the Mfecane ("crushing"), in which 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 people were killed and the inland plateau was devastated and depopulated in the early 1820s. An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele people created a larger empire that included large parts of the highveld under their king Mzilikazi.

During the early 1800s, many Dutch settlers departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control. They migrated to the future Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic (now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces), the Natalia Republic (KwaZulu-Natal), and the Orange Free State (Free State).

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration. This intensified British efforts to gain control over the indigenous peoples. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British.

The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. Following Lord Carnarvon's successful introduction of federation in Canada, it was thought that similar political effort, coupled with military campaigns, might succeed with the African kingdoms, tribal areas and Boer republics in South Africa. In 1874, Sir Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as High Commissioner for the British Empire to bring such plans into being. Among the obstacles were the presence of the independent states of the Boers and the Kingdom of Zululand and its army. The Zulu nation defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. Eventually, though, the war was lost, resulting in the termination of the Zulu nation's independence.

 

The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions. The British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and new strategy in the Second Boer War (1899–1902) but suffered heavy casualties through attrition; nonetheless, they were ultimately successful.

Independence

Within the country, anti-British policies among white South Africans focused on independence. During the Dutch and British colonial years, racial segregation was mostly informal, though some legislation was enacted to control the settlement and movement of native people, including the Native Location Act of 1879 and the system of pass laws.

Eight years after the end of the Second Boer War and after four years of negotiation, an act of the British Parliament (South Africa Act 1909) granted nominal independence, while creating the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910. The Union was a dominion that included the former territories of the Cape, Transvaal and Natal colonies, as well as the Orange Free State republic.

The Natives' Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; at that stage natives controlled only 7 pc of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased.

In 1931, the union was fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolished the last powers of the British Government on the country. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to

) controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalized segregation became known as apartheid. While whites enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, comparable to First World Western nations, the black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. The Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955 by the Congress Alliance, demanded a non-racial society and an end to discrimination.

Republic

On 31 May 1961, the country became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favour thereof (the British-dominated Natal province rallied against the issue).  Queen Elizabeth II was stripped of the title Queen of South Africa, and the last Governor-General, Charles Robberts Swart, became State President.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nigeria is a federal republic in West Africa, bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the southeast, and Benin in the west. Its coast in the south is located on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The federation comprises 36 states and 1 Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja is located. Nigeria is officially a democratic secular country.

Nigeria has been home to a number of ancient and indigenous kingdoms and states over the millennia. The modern state originated from British colonial rule beginning in the 19th century, and took its present territorial shape with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures while practising indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria became a formally independent federation in 1960. It experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970. It thereafter alternated between democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships until it achieved a stable democracy in 1999, with the 2011 presidential election considered the first to be reasonably free and fair.

Nigeria is often referred to as the "Giant of Africa", owing to its large population and economy. With 186 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after India and China, with more than 90 million of its population under age 18. The country is viewed as a multinational state as it is inhabited by 250 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; these ethnic groups speak over 250 different languages and are identified with a wide variety of cultures. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern part of the country, and Muslims, who live mostly in the north. A minority of the population practice religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities.

As of 2015, Nigeria is the world's 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa's largest economy in 2014. The 2013 debt-to-GDP ratio was 11 percent. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank; it has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs, and has also been identified as an emerging global power. However, it currently has a "low" Human Development Index, ranking 152nd in the world. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe's next "BRIC-like" economies. It is also listed among the "Next Eleven" economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many other international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and OPEC.

The name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was coined in the late 19th century by British journalist Flora Shaw, who later married Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator. The origin of the name Niger, which originally applied only to the middle reaches of the Niger River, is uncertain. The word is likely an alteration of the Tuareg name egerew n-igerewen used by inhabitants along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu prior to 19th-century European colonialism.