Africa in post-Russian-Ukrainian War

The Akan of Ghana have a proverb that literally says “when two elephants fight, it is the forest (or grass) that suffers. And once the damage is done, the ripple effect is felt not only by those close to the vicinity of the battleground, but also those far and beyond. Such is the story of the current destructive war between two republics of the quondam Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic and its potential impact on the world. Russia and Ukraine are at each other’s throat and the world is on the verge of economic asphyxiating.

Indubitably, the current global economy has gone south due to the wrath of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and the supply chain crisis is a direct attribute of the ramifications of the pandemic. From the advanced economies to the most underdeveloped countries, the complaints have been the same. The greatest economies of the world are all reeling from the effects of COVID-19. For the first time in 40 years inflation in the United States of America has reached seven percent. News coming from Africa and the developing economies is no better. As if that was not enough threat to global stability, the world woke up on February 24, 2022, to see Russia menacing and pounding on Ukraine. And the fallout is scarier.

Both Russia and Ukraine are very essential to the world in several important ways. Russia is a major producer of crude oil, second after Saudi Arabia and supplying NATO countries and providing 15 percent of the oil consumed by the United States. Russia is also a major source of fertilizer to the world as well. Ukraine on the other hand is the breadbasket of Russia itself supplying a huge[EO1]  amount of Russia’s and the world’s wheat. An agrarian behemoth, Ukraine is also huge supplier of iron ore, and other essential minerals to Russia and the world. In essence, Russia and Ukraine are many things economically to the world in general. They are both very important countries in the world body polity and economics.

So where is Africa’s stance in the war? Patrick Gathara, writing in Al Jazeera states “Many people, including on this continent, have been aghast at what they see as the moral failure not just of African governments, but also of individual Africans, to out-rightly condemn Russia for its clear and unwarranted aggression, as well as its imperial and colonial designs on another people’s land, with which they should be all too familiar.” At the United Nations most African nations abstain rather than take sides in any vote on the war. But it is the opinion of this paper that the African attitude in the war is not to offend any of the parties as they are both active partners in trade and other areas. Manganese from Ghana is processed in Ukraine, while Kenya and most of East and West Africa and indeed Egypt and the rest of the continent buy wheat from Ukraine. Agriculture in most African nations is sustained by fertilizer from Russia. We don’t know about the motives and intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in this war; whether it is going to be a protracted affair, or a short strike is not so clear to us. But what we know is that wars are destructive, physically, and morally, protracted or a short strike. Economically it can be devastating. Wars disorient, not just the factions, but also friends and partners in various endeavors. Amandla cautions Africa to wake up to the realities likely to befall the continent because of Putin’s punitive measures against Ukraine. Already Russia’s decision to break the myth of the petrodollar is pregnant with severe economic and pecuniary issues and does not bode well for currencies in developing nations.

In the circumstances, Africa needs to rethink its internal trade policies and the state of its economic relations with the rest of the world. The fallout of COVID-19 and the Russian-Ukrainian war that has unleashed on the world pain in rising fuel and wheat prices and subdued investments, are lessons in objectivity for Africa.  The immediate sanctions placed on Russia has added to the woes of the world’s supply chain and financial markets, adding salt to injury of already bleeding supply chain wounds. As far as commodity prices are concerned, Africa stands to lose more than win. Losers include countries that consume bread made from wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and that include almost the entire continent. Major African oil producers like Nigeria and Angola could gain from the realignment of such buyers as the United States which has already lost its trade with Russia through its sanctions.

Even though trade and investments with and in Africa by both Russia and Ukraine are comparatively lower, the compromised free flow of goods and services due to the war would have some effects on Africa long after the war.

The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a pipe dream of Ghana’s first President Late Kwame Nkrumah is pregnant with opportunities for a united Africa buffeted by a strong economic integration. The continental trade compact signed on March 21, 2018, came into force thirty days after ratification. Perhaps and clearly, the AfCFTA, in the circumstances of the current global economic crisis must consider adopting trade and economic specialization on the continent on a mutual basis to ensure that regions and countries exchange in commodities and services in which they have reliable expertise. For example, the Sahel region and Botswana among others could provide cattle and cereal, while South Africa and Ghana provide expertise in mining. With lower tariffs and customs duties, trade among Africans can withstand the challenges embedded in trade with others from without the continent.

Perhaps, another Akan adage “ohia ma adwen dwen,” to wit, ‘poverty spawns deep reflections and thought’ is spot on for Africa to put on its thinking cap at this point in time of global disorder. Africa has been poor for so long while a little thought about what we can do for ourselves could go a long way to make us richer than we are.


Posted by on Apr 13 2022. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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