The Platform

Andy Hall/Oxfam

The war in Ukraine has diverted global political attention from Africa’s problems and has made it harder for the United Nations to lead international peace-making efforts. Throughout Africa, the war in Ukraine has already affected food security and has triggered a spike in oil prices, further inflicting economic duress on African households. Increased economic hardship and social discontent do not bode well for democratic governance in Africa, especially in light of the recent spate of military coups.

While Africa has yet to fully recover from the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict poses another major threat to the global economy with many African countries being directly affected.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa have emphasized the economic damage being done to African countries. On top of food price inflation and Africa’s dependence on food supplies from both Ukraine and Russia, the World Food Programme has highlighted the shortage of emergency supplies to feed the starving in drought-stricken eastern Africa.

The Ukraine conflict will impact food security in Africa. Over the past decade, the continent has seen growing demand for cereal crops, including wheat, imported from Russia and Ukraine.

It should be noted that Russia and Ukraine, both often referred to as the world’s breadbasket, are major players in the export of wheat and sunflower to Africa. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Africa account for 80 percent of wheat imports.

In addition, the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries will further exacerbate commercial flows between Russia and Africa due to the closure of vital port operations in the Black Sea, with knock-on effects for food security and an increase in fuel prices.

Some regions, including the Sahel, are at greater risk of food insecurity due to country-specific shocks, climate change, political instability, extreme weather events, climate change, limited adoption of yield-increasing technologies, and dependency on rain-fed agriculture and low levels of irrigation.

The countries that produce oil and natural gas should boost production in the face of fuel price shocks. In addition, African governments should invest in or attract greater international investment in oil and gas exploration.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has disrupted Africa’s promising recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by raising food and fuel prices, disrupting trade of goods and services, tightening the fiscal space, constraining green transitions, and reducing the flow of development finance in the continent,” said the UN’s Ahunna Eziakonwa.

The Ukraine conflict has put communities and countries across Africa in a very precarious situation. Consequently, African countries must leverage their resources and human capabilities to address the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and figure out together how to weather the storm.

Khalid Cherkaoui Semmouni is a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Rabat Center for Political and Strategic Studies.