This article analyses the dichotomy between potentials and capabilities with respect to Nigeria-South Africa relations and how this impinges on the leadership contest majorly involving the two countries. It observed that the international recognition accorded South Africa pitched it against Nigeria though, there are other contenders including Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Rwanda to mention a few for the leadership slot. To determine the leadership contest, this illustrative paper adopts descriptive and comparative methods to match the potentials vis-à-vis capabilities of Nigeria with South Africa in resolving the leadership contest. After a review of the foregoing issues, the study found out that though Nigeria was traditionally acknowledged as the giant of Africa, certain internal contradictions were not in tandem with Nigeria’s leadership status as it remained a country of potentials lacking the edge to provide leadership for the rest of the continent. It concludes that South Africa appeared to meet the criteria for leadership to a greater extent and as such should be considered as the leader of the continent though competition cannot be ruled out by other contenders.
Key words: Manifest potentials, strengths, leadership, foreign relations, leadership contest.