[PHOTOS] Nigeria Hosts President Jacob Zuma

Yemi Adebowale

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has arrived on a two-day state visit to Nigeria, a move observers see as an attempt to improve soured relations between the two African giants.

During the visit that began on Tuesday, Zuma is expected to address the Joint Session of the National Assembly of Nigeria, and will together with President Muhammadu Buhari address the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum.

Clayson Monyela, South Africa’s head of Public Diplomacy, told Al Jazeera the South African government believes the “historic visit” will “send a powerful political message to the continent”. “This will inject new life and energy into this important strategic relationship between the two countries and resolve the perceived tensions,” Monyela said.BuhariZuma2

Zuma said Nigeria-South Africa’s relations were “underpinned by strong historical ties dating back from the years of the liberation struggle”.

Relations have been strained over the past few years. South Africa’s telecom giant MTN’s Nigeria operation was handed a $3.9bn penalty in October 2015 for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards.

The company, which is trying to negotiate a settlement, has so far paid out $250m but its headline earnings for last year have taken a hit as a result. BuhariZuma3

Other South African firms in Nigeria have reportedly complained of being targeted. There have also been official criticisms of Nigeria’s response to a deadly building collapse in Lagos in 2014. Eighty-one of the 116 victims were South African nationals. Pretoria said their bodies were not repatriated quickly enough.

On the Nigerian side, there have been complaints about South African visa restrictions, while in April last year the two nations became embroiled in a spat over the recall of Nigeria’s two top diplomats.

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