Africa deals with the ripple effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine is well into its second year, many thousands have been killed and millions displaced.
Like most parts of the world, Africa has not escaped being impacted by the war, thanks to a web of trade links that have led to price hikes in goods from food to fuel. Many countries on the continent have relied on Ukraine and Russia as sources of wheat, fertilizer and other imports. In Kenya, as much as 90 per cent of the wheat consumed is imported from Russia and Ukraine.
African countries have been courted by both Russian and Ukrainian governments in an effort to get them to choose a side, but many have remained defiant in the face of political and public pressure. Several African governments have been careful not to upset Russia, despite pressure from the West.
In mid-June, the largest African delegation since the war began set out on a ‘peace mission’ to Ukraine and Russia. It was led by the president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa who was under pressure from the US for allegedly supporting Russia. He was joined by leaders from Senegal, Zambia, Comoros and Egypt, with envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda.
But despite the ‘historic’ nature of the trip, there is still little to show for it. Meanwhile, Sudan is being torn apart by war between the country’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. With millions of African lives in danger, one can’t help but wonder where the peace mission is most needed.
The interests that leave Ukraine in ruins are also present on the African continent. Russia has sought to take advantage of fragile situations in several African states. From Sudan to Mozambique, the Central African Republic to Mali, the involvement of Russia via Wagner Group mercenaries has been well documented.
And it’s not just Russia-related forces at work; much of the continent is under threat from private military groups, military bases and the use of proxies. The interests of foreign powers – including the US, Europe, China, Turkey and lately the Gulf countries – are always at play. This has had devastating impacts, both in terms of active war and, in some countries, making even small steps towards democratization impossible. Both France and the US have military bases in Niger, where a coup took place as we went to press.
The business of war is thriving at the expense of lives and communities. Resources like uranium, gold, diamonds and other resources are exchanged for ‘aid’ and backdoor deals that come in the form of military equipment and services. Meanwhile, Africa remains the most targeted region for large-scale land acquisitions in the Global South, often by foreign industrial agriculture companies. These takeovers can leave communities landless, exacerbating food insecurity.
Without robust, pan-African collective measures to tackle militarism and extractivist exploitation of the continent, we remain at the mercy of these empires. For there to be lasting change we need to dismantle the growing military and economic stranglehold on African states.