South Africa this Thursday (today) temporarily closed its embassy in Nigeria after threats led to fears for staff safety, in the wake of attacks this week on foreign-owned businesses in South Africa which caused a diplomatic spat.

Yesterday South Africa’s MTN and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks, and threats of reprisals forced Pretoria to shut its embassy in Abuja, its foreign minister said.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria said relations between the two countries were stronger than the challenges that they are facing now.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had hoped the World Economic Forum conference in Cape Town would serve as a shop window for his efforts to revive South Africa’s ailing economy and boost intra-African trade.

But the backdrop of a week of anti-immigrant violence, during which at least seven people have been killed and hundreds of arrests been made, has dominated proceedings.

While the victims’ nationalities have not been made public, the rioting has above all exposed dormant tensions between the host country and Nigeria, the continent’s two biggest economies.

It is unclear what ignited the latest attacks, which mainly targeted shops owned by African migrants.

REUTERS