Ukrainian crisis: what are the challenges for Africa?

In recent weeks, Clinton Mwenda has been shocked every time he goes to refuel the motorbike he uses to transport people. “The price of fuel has really gone up and is costing us as Kenyans,” the 28-year-old said. DW. “Some gas stations that respect the government price are cheaper, but others, like local gas stations, are more expensive.” As a result, a liter of petrol has risen to 160 Kshs (€1.27, $1.46) in some places.

Economists have warned that the war in Ukraine could further drive up oil prices and increase inflation in Africa. “The last time we had a war-related oil price bonanza was in 1991 during the Gulf War,” said Abdul-Ganiyu Garba, a professor in the economics department at Ahmadu University. Bello de Zaria. “We know this will have a direct impact on the price of crude oil. Revenues may increase, but since we have shifted oil investments to multinational corporations, they are more likely to reap greater revenues than the country itself. .”

Bracing for higher inflation

“If there is an increase in crude oil prices, it means that inflation will increase globally, the cost of most of our imports will also increase, which will affect the domestic crisis,” added the Nigerian economist. Commodity prices have skyrocketed in many African countries, making life more difficult for millions of people. “People start starving once these countries fight because they [global powers] presented themselves to African countries as homelands,” said Dox Deezol, a South African entrepreneur and artist in Johannesburg. DW.

As a member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) – the world‘s five emerging economies – South Africa was relatively quiet when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. However, the southern government -African called this time for restraint. “South Africa is embedded in the global economy. So the impact of the war on the global economy, as we have seen in the spike in oil and energy prices in general, will affect South Africa because when the world sneezes, South Africa catches a cold,” Professor Siphamandla Zondi, international relations expert and head of BRICS studies at the University of Johannesburg, said DW.

It is not just oil prices that could impact Africa. For example, there is significant agricultural trade between African countries and Russia and Ukraine.

Africa’s trade with Russia and Ukraine

In 2020, African countries imported $4 billion worth of agricultural products from Russia. Wheat accounted for about 90 percent of these imports. Egypt was the biggest importer, followed by Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa. Similarly, Ukraine exported agricultural products worth $2.9 billion to Africa in 2020. Wheat accounted for about 48%, corn 31%, and sunflower oil, barley and soy the rest. The ongoing war could affect supply chains and increase the cost of imports. It is also unclear what effect the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies on Russia will have on trade relations between Africa and Russia.

Mali stuck between Russia and Ukraine

Pro-Russian sentiment gradually grew in Africa, especially in the former French colonies. Moreover, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine comes at a time when Mali has frosty relations with France over the presence of military advisers from the Russian private company Wagner. “Obviously, the situation in Mali has nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine,” said Babarou Bocoum, a SADI party politician. DW. “However, maybe it can have an impact because, again, France considers Mali as its zone of influence,” Bocoum said. According to him, France would be wrong to take advantage of this opportunity to impose itself in Mali by force. “That cannot be ruled out because France refuses to leave.”

But for Moctar Sy of the Generation Engaged movement, a Malian civil society organization, nothing justifies Russia’s military intervention. “I strongly condemn Russia’s decision to wage war on Ukraine, in violation of international law, but above all of state sovereignty,” Sy said. DW. “I take this opportunity to express my solidarity with the Ukrainian people, respect for its borders, its history, for a just peace without humiliation.”

Africa should be worried

Thousands of African students study in Ukraine and Russia. Many of them were caught off guard by the war and are now stuck. “Africans whose relatives live or trade with Ukrainians or Russians have reason to be concerned,” said David Kikaya, founding director of the Peace Policy and International Affairs Research Institute. He warned that if the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, it could attract other countries. “That is why the conflict should not only concern Africans in Africa but also those in the Diaspora.”

Congolese poet and writer Sinzo Aanza said he fears Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will also affect the politics of African countries. But he hopes Africa will not become a victim of great power rivalry this time around. “This is very bad news for Africa in general because we are on a continent that has always been affected by outside influences,” Aanza said. DW. “Most of the conflicts on the African continent today are linked to global economic, political and geostrategic considerations. Unfortunately, you cannot separate what is happening today in the Central African Republic or Mali from what is happening in Ukraine,” Aanza added. He firmly believes that the Russians are pursuing a strategy of weakening the powers that have sought to weaken Moscow in Europe.

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