Repercussions of the Russo-Ukrainian War on Africa

The transformation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Donbass region into an all-out war on February 24 has raised global economic and security concerns. In this context, the reactions of African countries to the Russian intervention, how the Russian-Ukrainian war will affect Russia’s African policies, and general reflections of the war on the continent itself contain different parameters.

In this regard, some oil-exporting countries in the region are in a favorable position, especially in terms of natural gas and raw material exports with the sanctions implemented by the United States and European countries against Russia. On the other hand, countries whose industry and agriculture are highly dependent on oil exports have the potential to find themselves in an economic bottleneck due to rising oil and natural gas prices. The same is true for the grain trade. The fact that Russia and Ukraine provide 25% of the world grain supply may indirectly lead the African continent, as one of its biggest customers, to food insecurity.

Presence in Africa and reactions

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to explain Russia’s interest in Africa by referring to Soviet-era historical and cultural ties, Russia’s entry into the African continent emerged as a necessity. based on the sanctions implemented with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. In this process, the Putin administration, which sought new markets and diplomatic support, increased its engagement in Africa. So much so that the Russia-Africa summit, first held in Sochi in 2019, with the participation of 50 African countries and 43 presidents, was an indicator of what so many have called a strategy” expansionist” of Russia on the continent.

Today, the Russian mercenary Wagner Group operates in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mozambique and Mali. Apart from that, Russia has strong trade relations with important African economies such as South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Sudan. In this context, Russia’s military and economic relations prevent the African Union from acting in unison against the Russian-Ukrainian war. Despite the union’s own legislation emphasizing the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity, most of the aforementioned countries have taken an impartial position. However, countries like Kenya, Gabon and Ghana have said that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is aimed at the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which has led to condemnation from Moscow. On the other hand, the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera, declared his support for the Russian interventions in Donetsk and Luhansk, while the President of the Sudanese Military Council, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, visited Moscow , accompanied by a large delegation.

In addition to these reactions, Russia, through the Wagner Group, carries out propaganda activities in the countries where it is active, both on social networks and through mainstream media, to whitewash the intervention of Russian troops in Ukraine. . Russia, which wants to maintain the sympathy and soft power it wields in countries like Burkina Faso and Guinea, where coups have recently taken place, is expected to continue its activities.

Opportunities and Challenges

With the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian War, the United States and European countries imposed various sanctions against Russia. In fact, Russia covers 40% of the European Union’s natural gas needs. Middle Eastern and African countries are emerging as a solid alternative for Europe as it tries to diversify its natural gas supply and reduce its dependence on Russia. At this stage, among African countries, Algeria is an appropriate alternative both in terms of its geopolitical position and its significant reserves. Apart from that, countries like Senegal (which has 40 trillion cubic meters of energy reserves), Nigeria and Tanzania seem to be advantaged by their natural gas capacity. In this sense, Nigeria, Niger and Algeria, which are on the route of the trans-Saharan gas pipeline, cooperated in order to increase their natural gas exports to European markets and signed an agreement on February 16. The deal includes a cost of $13 billion. to renew the pipes. Apart from this line, a total of 50 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Algerian natural gas is transported to Europe via the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline and the trans-Mediterranean gas pipeline. However, rising natural gas and oil prices could trigger a serious crisis for oil-importing African countries. This means additional costs for African countries that depend on oil and natural gas in agricultural and industrial production.

Second, the Russian-Ukrainian war may negatively affect Africa in terms of agricultural production and food security, as both countries are major grain exporters to Africa. African countries imported $4 billion worth of agricultural products from Russia in 2020. Among these products, wheat comes first with a rate of 90%. On the other hand, Ukraine exported $2.9 billion worth of agricultural products to Africa in 2020. While wheat accounts for 48% of the products, corn accounts for 31%. Moreover, these two countries have a total share of 26% (Russia 18%, Ukraine 8%) in world wheat exports. While Egypt ranks first in wheat imports, countries like Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa also import wheat to a large extent from Russia and Ukraine. Currently, with Russian intervention in Ukraine, corn prices have increased by 21%, wheat by 35% and soybeans by 20%, respectively. Yet in the Sahel region and West Africa alone, 26 million people do not have access to enough food. Thus, the prolongation of the war and the disruption of agricultural exchanges can lead to a significant rise in prices. Rising bread prices, particularly in Kenya and Sudan, have led to anti-government protests. Undoubtedly, this situation brings food security concerns to the forefront for Africa, which has experienced many food crises in the past.

What is the conclusion?

The Russian-Ukrainian war, which broke out after Russia’s unilateral intervention, is geographically distant from the region but still closely concerns the African continent. Many different issues such as food security, agricultural production and the inclusion of countries with natural gas reserves in the geopolitical equation due to sanctions against Russia, are directly linked to Africa. In this context, prolonging the war and continuing to sanction Russia will increase the prices of agricultural products and raw materials, which will expose the African continent to a food security crisis.

On the other hand, Russia, which has recently established military, political and economic ties with many African countries, plans to maintain its current sphere of influence and soft power. At the same time, some countries that wish to maintain their neutrality because of their close political and commercial relations with Russia prevent the African Union from acting jointly against Russia.

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