Senegalese President and African Union Chairman Macky Sall has arrived in the southwestern Russian city of Sochi with the aim of offsetting Africa’s looming food crisis, largely due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis which began in late February after it was approved as a “special military operation” by the State Duma and the Federation Council. The State Duma and the Federation Council, the Lower House and the Upper House of the legislative structure of the Russian Federation.
The special military operation aimed at the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine, now in its fourth month, has upended the global economy, sent prices skyrocketing and generated deep social discontent among the population of world due to a series of unprecedented sanctions imposed by the United States. , European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and host of other countries.
Almost all African countries are struggling to contain the impact of the crisis, two years after the coronavirus pandemic locked them behind borders and unprecedented climate change compounding the difficulties facing the continent. Candidly acknowledging, however, that it is time to address the shortcomings in achieving economic independence, African leaders have complained bitterly of being direct victims of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Russia has always dismissed this accusation and instead blamed Western and European sanctions for the precarious situation that has also engulfed Africa.
On June 3, historically, African Union Chairman and Senegalese President Macky Sall, probably after several weeks of preparations, agreed with the Kremlin administration for a negotiated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. His explicit message in the wallet, carried on behalf of African leaders and from the African Union headquarters, was that the Russian-Ukrainian crisis be resolved peacefully through diplomatic dialogue, freezing stocks of fuel, grain and fertilizer, the blockage of which particularly affects African countries, and simultaneously take advantage of the golden opportunity to review bilateral Russian-Senegalese relations and those of Russian-African relations.
Experts warmly praised him for his great efforts, Sall forgot to leave behind the continental bowl. Africa as a continent has remained fertile ground for boosting investment in agriculture and industry, but is highly dependent on its food imports. As a result and without proper alternative pathways for Africa’s food security, Sall has to complain: “The anti-Russian sanctions have made this situation worse and now we don’t have access to grain from Russia, mainly wheat. And above all, we do not have access to fertilizers. The situation was bad and now it has gotten worse, creating a threat to food security in Africa.
Beyond all this, it seems that Africans have no other way to reverse their dependence on food imports (in terms of basic economy for beginners, reversal being content with import substitutes ), despite the huge arable land. The irreversible fact is that Ukraine and Russia are the main suppliers of wheat and other cereals to Africa, while Russia is a key producer of fertilizers, and it has become necessary, as soon as possible, to find appropriate solutions. Reports indicate that the Russian blockade of Odessa has hurt Ukrainian food exports.
“As you know, a number of countries have passed resolutions at the United Nations. Africa’s position is very heterogeneous but despite strong pressure, many countries have still not denounced Russia’s position,” Sall explained, and added that “it is also possible to look at Asia , the Middle East and Latin America – we see that the world is watching developments closely, and that countries that are so far from the focus of the conflict are still suffering the consequences.
According to reports, 17 African countries abstained from voting on the resolution at the United Nations. Some political pundits say this scenario of Africans voting at the UN opens up a topic for full geopolitical study and analysis. There are so many interpretations and geopolitical implications. Nevertheless, the African Union, regional economic organizations and African governments are still distinctly divided on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis due to differing views and, worse, out of fear of the contradictions and confrontations posed by the crisis and its effects on future relationships.
At the Sochi meeting, Macky Sall at least explained all this and the economic implications, while emphasizing the important role of Russia in the history of the African continent and expressed hope for an expansion of deep cooperation with President Vladimir Putin. “Sanctions against Russia have worsened the situation of grain and fertilizer deliveries to African countries. We don’t have access to it. This has implications from a continent’s food security perspective,” Sall said. Senegal “supports the release of cereals and fertilizers from anti-Russian sanctions”, added the president.
For his part, President Putin unreservedly stressed that Africa’s role is growing and that Russia will continue to develop various aspects of relations with African countries. “Africa’s political role on the international scene, in general, is growing. We believe that Africa as a whole and its individual states, with which we have traditionally had very good friendly relations, without any exaggeration, have great prospects and, on this basis, we intend to further develop our relations with Africa as a whole and with its individual states,” the Russian leader said.
“We are at a new stage of development and attach great importance to our relations with African countries,” Putin noted. According to him, the development of relations between Russia and Africa has shown obvious positive results. In particular, commercial turnover is constantly increasing. “In the first months of this year, it increased by 34%. We are striving to develop humanitarian ties with African countries and we will do everything in our power to speed up this process,” he said, adding that Russia has also always been very interested in African culture.
He referred to the Africa Day (May 25) which took place recently and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Senegal. In this regard, Russia has always been on the side of Africa, has always supported Africa in its struggle against colonialism. It attempts to counter rapidly growing neocolonial tendencies, but so far only with rhetoric. Putin also recalled that the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit was held precisely in Sochi.
Putin hosted dozens of African leaders in Sochi in a bid to reassert Russia’s influence on the continent. Although never a colonial power in Africa, Moscow was a crucial player on the continent during the Soviet era, supporting independence movements and nurturing a generation of African leaders. Russia’s ties with Africa unexpectedly diminished with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and China emerged as a key foreign power investing in many sectors on the continent. While Russia’s economic footprints are still invisible, the fact remains that the United States, the European Union and a number of Gulf States are also investing significantly in Africa.
Local Russian media, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, reported that discussions about the threat of famine in Africa had been going on for some time. Agricultural shipments via the Black Sea routes have stalled, not least because kyiv has mined the waters around Odessa for fear that Russia will try to seize the port. In fact, as Africa seeks to weather the shocks from the coronavirus pandemic, the economic situation on the continent left much to be desired even before the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Although Russia and Ukraine produce only a third of global wheat and barley exports, a large proportion of these are concentrated in Africa rather than the wealthier countries. This is why the questions of logistics and sanctions trigger a real famine.
“The visit of the African Union delegation is actually nothing out of the ordinary as the parties exchange delegations several times a year. It was during the pandemic that food price issues began to emerge. In addition, complications with foreign currency payments and Russia’s inability to make full use of maritime transport create additional difficulties. In particular, even if some companies agree to insure Russian ships, their high tariffs inevitably affect prices for end customers,” said the deputy director of the Institute of African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Leonid Fituni.
In summary, President Putin’s meeting with the Chairman of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, with the participation of the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was very significant in the context of relations Russian-African. This high-level meeting shows that Russia’s interaction with the African Union has entered a new phase of development, including the expansion of political dialogue and possibly the strengthening of more practical economic cooperation as well as the re-identification cultural exchanges with African countries.