Russia-Ukraine War: How Does This Impact Africa?

When Russia’s first salvo rang out in Ukraine, the world was alarmed to the dangerous reality of a war.

Africa, like every other part of the world will also be affected by the war with at least 12,000 students from just two African countries, expected back home. 

While the war may not directly affect any African country, some African nations with significant Russian investments will feel the crunch. Money expected as aid to tackle poverty, diseases, education and climate change would be denied as the biggest countries of the world respectively take positions, in readiness for battle.

What Africa is Saying

The African Union has expressed “extreme concern” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a joint statement by Senegal President and Chairman of the AU, Macky Sall and AU Commission Chairman, Faki Mahamat.

“They call on the Russian Federation and any other regional or international actor to imperatively respect international law, and the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine,” the statement read in part.

South Africa and Kenya have since reacted to the situation, with the former calling for a peaceful resolution. It stated in clear terms that a war will not only affect Ukraine but will be felt by the whole world. 

“Armed conflict will no doubt result in human suffering and destruction, the effects of which will not only affect Ukraine but also reverberate across the world. No country is immune to the effects of this conflict,” a South African government statement read. 

The neutrality and peace-seeking front of South Africa may be disappointing to Russia which considers the African economic giant a key partner on the continent. Both nations are members of the BRICS group of emerging economies, also comprising India, China and Brazil. While China has since condemned the labelling of Russia, and is looking to back its business ally, others are yet to take a stand, although they have strong connections with the United States.

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Russia’s current investment in South Africa is in the region of 23billion Rand while Pretoria has at least 80billion Rand worth of investments in Russia and will be watching proceedings from the East with keen interest. 

Ghana and Gabon have also expressed their disagreement with Russia’s moves as the Ghanaian government asked its nationals in Ukraine, especially students to stay in safe zones. 

“We believe that the model used for the evacuation of students from China at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic could be adopted,” the National Union of Ghana Students said in a statement calling for the evacuation of Ghanaian students. 

In a colonialism-toned message by Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, he said Russia had failed to respect the integrity of Ukraine’s territory when it announced Luhansk and Donestk People’s Republics.

Kimani said Africa has had to deal with geographical positions by its colonialists but accepted in its desire to see peace reign.

“Kenya, and almost every African country, was birthed by the ending of empire. 

“Our borders were not of our own drawing. They were drawn in the distant colonial metropoles of London, Paris, and Lisbon with no regard for the ancient nations that they cleaved apart.”

Russia claims East Ukraine is still very much its border and has made moves to irk the Ukrainian government and its allies. 

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“Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

 “We chose to follow the rules of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) and the United Nations charter not because our borders satisfied us but because we wanted something greater forged in peace.”

The Nigerian government expressed surprise but stopped short of condemning Russia’s actions. A statement by the foreign ministry said it has received the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with surprise but told Nigerian nationals in Ukraine to be “responsible for their safety.” The country also provided leeway for exit for interested people through a private arrangement. 

Other African countries including Mali and the Central African Republic where Russia’s Wagner is fighting insurgents, have been quiet so far about the attack on Ukraine.

Dangers of the Daily Bread and the Missing Cup of Tea

On an individual front, the average African may be affected by variations in the prices of bread if the war lasts. Russia and Ukraine produce almost a third of the world’s total wheat- important in the production of bread.

As seen in the Arab Spring just above a decade ago, an unwanted cost of bread may lead to an uprising. With the price of a loaf potentially going higher in the coming days, this could be danger on the run.

Kenya may also suffer from the brutes of the war with its tea not going to Russia, one of its five highest consumers. The East African giant is the third biggest producer of tea in the world and it is significant to its foreign exchange.

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Opportunities in a Time of Ruins

While Ukraine may be wary of every object flying over its head as the war gets more intense, Africa has opportunities it can make the most of.

Oil prices went $100/barrel, the highest since 2014 as the oil market reacted to Russia’s salvo. For countries like Nigeria, which runs an oil-based economy, this can be an advantage if made the most of. Angola, Gabon and others also have oil they can sell to make bigger proceeds. However, the gains may be lost in the rising prices of food, and the potential increase in inflation. 

Russia is believed to be Europe’s main supplier of gas but with the EU members announcing varying levels of sanctions on Moscow, their next gas market is expected to be Africa. This however must be done quickly to make the opportunities count – for all concerned.

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