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How Africa was Affected from Russo-Ukrainian War

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The war, which started with Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, still continues. In response to these attacks of Russia, the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) also wanted to create a deterrent effect by taking new sanction decisions. Undoubtedly, these sanctions will seriously affect the whole world. Because the sanctions applied or to be implemented will have many economic, political, and social effects. Although it is still early to fully determine the impact of the war on the crises in Africa, it can be said that the reflections of the war will be multidimensional. In this context, the answer to the question of how sanctions will affect African countries should be examined in this article.

First of all, it can be stated that the impact of the sanctions on Africa will be in political, diplomatic and military dimensions, especially in the economy. Because, from an economic point of view, the fact that the sanctions started to affect the whole world is one of the most concrete indicators of this. Moreover, the economic dimension has effects on both a continental and a national basis. Because each of the 54 countries in Africa has economic income and expense branches for different reasons. In this respect, the effects will be different for each of the African countries. For example, the oil and natural gas in Nigeria can lead to a positive change for Nigeria with this war and contribute to the country’s economy.

Moreover, the issue is not just about sanctions. Because war also has affected the world. In both diplomatic and economic terms, some effects have begun to be felt in Africa as well as in the whole world. Because the Moscow administration signed nuclear and military cooperation agreements with several African countries and sold weapons to these countries. Thus, in recent years, Russia has begun to advance its relations with African countries. However, with the war, some reservations of African countries and the effects of the war on the continental countries have also emerged. For instance, Egypt makes 75-80% of her wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine. However, due to the situation caused by the war, Egypt has to make changes in her import plan. In addition, if it acts slowly in this change in the import plan or has difficulty in finding another country to replace, it seems inevitable that the already increasing food prices in the country will increase.

Africa’s wheat import increased by 68 percent between 2007-2019 and reached 47 million tons.[1] Most of the imports in question are made from Russia and Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are the main suppliers of grain varieties such as wheat, barley, and oilseeds on the continent.  These two states supply about 30 percent of the world’s wheat. In addition, Russia is the world’s third largest natural gas and oil producer on her own. Therefore, some continental countries importing oil and natural gas from Russia and African countries purchasing grain from both countries will face a problem arising from price increases soon.

Access to these grains is reduced or prevented due to war. This situation will seriously affect countries importing from Russia and Ukraine in Africa, especially Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Kenya and Libya. It is known that droughts have been increasing in North Africa for decades and countries in this part of the continent lack the industry capability to support the people with local foods. For this reason, the countries in question have become more and more dependent on grain imports from Ukraine and Russia to protect their citizens. Therefore, the obstacles and restrictions brought by the war situation and the problems in the supply chain will hit the grain imports from these two countries in Africa, and thus there will be price increases in many food products.

It is known that countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria consume a lot of wheat and most of this wheat is imported. Therefore, increases in grain products will deeply affect such countries. This means high inflation. On the other hand, it can be argued that oil exporting countries such as Angola and Nigeria will be less affected by the increase in commodity prices due to the increase in oil prices despite their low production. Because it is predicted that a balance will be formed in the import-export figures of the mentioned states.

This Russian attack on Ukraine has the potential to increase hunger and poverty in Africa in the short and medium term. This further exacerbates the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, if the war continues, the poverty of citizens in Africa will increase. In addition, due to the removal of Russia’s big banks from SWIFT, there will be various difficulties in payments.

Several other countries could similarly benefit from Europe’s energy diversification, including Senegal, where 40 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was discovered between 2014 and 2017 and production is expected to begin in 2022.[2] Nigeria, which is currently a supplier of liquefied natural gas to many European countries, also enters the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline with Niger and Algeria to increase its exports to European markets. On February 16, 2022, these three countries signed an agreement to develop the pipeline, which is estimated to cost 13 billion dollars. [3] Europe, which is in search of new oil and natural gas suppliers to the pipeline, is likely to be an important financier.

In addition to natural gas, more sanctions against Russia could also benefit other natural resource exporters in the region. South Africa, for example, is the world’s second largest producer of palladium, a critical input for automobiles and electronics, after Russia, and may therefore face increased demand because of international sanctions against Russia. Similarly, the currency of South Africa, a major exporter of gold, is strengthening because of rising global prices of the precious metal.

While most of the attention focuses on the effects of war on Trans-Atlantic relations; The occupation of Ukraine also puts African countries to an important test through pan-African solidarity. In recent months, institutions aiming to represent this solidarity, from the African Union (AfB) to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have led heads of state to discuss how to deal with the wave of coups in the Sahel and rising insurgency across the continent.

In addition to all these, Russia accounts for only 2-3 percent of Africa’s trade with other states. Only 0.5 percent of the investment from Africa and only 2 percent of the export to Africa is made by Russia. Considering these data, it is understood that Russia is not a global investor or a leading economy in Africa. This means that the impact of the sanctions on the continent will be limited. Because the economic impact of Africa will have a course related to the increase in commodity prices in widely consumed grain products such as wheat and corn and oil prices.

In political and diplomatic terms, many countries, political actors, and governments in Africa mostly avoid clear harmony with Russia or Ukraine/West and seem not to have determined their sides for now. Apart from this, in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s decision to condemn Russia, 27 out of 54 African countries voted against Russia; surprisingly, 17 countries abstained, voted in favor of Eritrea, and the remaining states did not vote at all. Some of the abstaining countries are those with which Russia has signed various agreements or where Wagner forces are present. In addition, states that do not want to be with or against both sides have made a strategic move according to themselves by not participating at all. Otherwise, they could be criticized by Russia and the West, or their investments could be jeopardized.

There are several reasons for the high number of abstaining, dissenting votes and non-participants at this point. The first reason is the nostalgic respect for the support given by the Soviet Union to the independence struggles of some South African states, especially the Republic of South Africa. Another reason is the unwillingness of African states to be drawn into the apparent possible resurgence of the Cold War. Because many African countries were at the point of proxy-satellite actors during the Cold War and they were adversely affected by this situation. Another reason is Russia’s increasing influence in Africa in recent years. This is due to the various agreements signed between many African countries and Russia in recent years, and the presence of Wagner forces in more than ten countries.

When examined militarily, we come across Russia’s arms deals with African countries and, more importantly, the Russian private military company Wagner, which has activities in many places outside of Africa. How will the Russia-Ukraine War and therefore the sanctions imposed on Russia affect Wagner’s situation in Africa?

Russia’s isolation from the rest of the world could bring it closer to countries like Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are excluded from most of Africa. However, rising food prices come at a politically sensitive time for many countries. In Africa, there will be elections in 2022 and 2023 in many countries such as Angola, Kenya and possibly Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore, there may be a situation where existing governments in Africa can secure themselves so that they can continue and be re-elected. In this case, Wagner forces could provide ‘protection’ to governments in other countries as well as in the Central African Republic. In this case, the influence of Wagner and therefore Russia will increase in some countries.

The last success of Wagner, who has made an agreement with the Mali Government and allegedly started operating in this country, was that the French Ambassador and French media channels left Mali and the French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew the French troops from the country in February 2022. This development indicates that the effect of Western security aid on African states has diminished. For this reason, Wagner has begun to be accepted as an effective method to solve political and military problems in the future. This can be understood from the increasing Wagner effect in African states. Due to the effects of the sanctions and the Russian-Ukrainian War on the entire world economy, the food shortages and food shortages that may be experienced in Africa, as well as the upcoming elections and political instability, may unleash a storm as more African leaders reach Wagner forces for support.

As a result of the sanctions imposed on Russia, the Russian ruble depreciated greatly against the dollar. In this context, the sanctions imposed on Russia will have an effect up to a certain point; however, it is thought that the effect will not be much in the medium and long term. Because a significant level of natural gas and oil sanctions against Russia have not been implemented yet. In other words, a way out has been left for Russia. China’s implicit support is also an indication that Russia’s influence will not be long-term. However, apart from all these, when it comes to the effects on Africa, it is possible that many of the African states will be affected by the sanctions. Because the increase in food, oil and natural gas prices and supply problems will make food security difficult, cause an extraordinary increase in the prices of many products, especially food, and therefore lead to high inflation in many African states.

In addition to all these, Africa is divided into two, politically and diplomatically. While one side is close to the West, voting against Russia; the other party abstains or takes care to stand by both parties by not even participating in the voting. In fact, this situation reveals the increasing Russian influence in Africa. In military terms, whether Wagner’s influence in Africa will increase in the future will vary depending on the course of the Russia-Ukraine War and the size and effect of the sanctions. If natural gas or oil is added to a possible package of additional sanctions, or if the sanctions affect Russia more than previously thought, Wagner forces’ resources may be cut short, which could reduce Russia’s effectiveness in Africa.

In conclusion, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has once again highlighted the urgent need for policy and investment options to build sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems on the African continent. Because war increases structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities, including poverty and inequality.

[1] Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko-Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, “Africa Nutrition Year: Impact of Russia-Ukraine Conflict on African Food Systems”, African Union Development Agency, https://www.nepad.org/publication/africanutritionyear-impact-of-russia-ukraine-conflict-african-food-systems#:~:text=Africa’s%20wheat%20imports%20increased%20by,wheat%20and%20sunflower%20to%20Africa, (Date of Accession: 25.04.2022)

[2] Seth Onyango, “Ukraine Crisis: Could Africa Become Europe’s Next Gas Station?”, How we made it in Africa?, https://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/ukraine-crisis-could-africa-become-europes-next-gas-station/140820/, (Date of Accession: 26.04.2022)

[3] Kester Kenn Klomegah, “Europe Abandons Russia’s Energy-Can Africa Become Reliable Alternative Supplier?”, Modern Diplomacy, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/04/25/europe-abandons-russias-energy-can-africa-become-reliable-alternative-supplier/, (Date of Accession: 30.04.2022)

Göktuğ ÇALIŞKAN
Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünde lisans eğitimi alan Göktuğ ÇALIŞKAN, aynı süreçte çift ana dal programı kapsamında üniversitenin Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi’nde yer alan Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde de eğitim görmüştür. 2017 yılında lisans mezuniyetini tamamladıktan sonra Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde yüksek lisans programına başlayan Çalışkan, bu programı 2020 yılında başarı ile tamamlamıştır. 2018 yılında ise çift ana dal programı kapsamında eğitim gördüğü Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Millî Eğitim Bakanlığı (MEB) bursu kapsamında 2017 yılı YLSY programını kazanarak halen Fransa’da dil eğitimi alan Göktuğ Çalışkan aynı zamanda Erciyes Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi son sınıf öğrencisidir. YLSY programı kapsamında Fas'ta Uluslararası Rabat Üniversitesinde Yönetişim ve Uluslararası İstihbarat alanında 2. yüksek lisansını yapmakta olan Çalışkan, Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası Ilişkiler bölümünde doktorasına başlamıştır. Iyi derecede İngilizce ve Fransızca bilmektedir.