“JI came to see you to ask you to realize that our countries […] are victims of this economic crisis. This is the message sent to Vladimir Poutine by the Senegalese Head of State Macky Sall, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union, visiting Sochi (southern Russia) this Friday 3 June. The Senegalese leader, accompanied by the current president of the Commission of the Pan-African institution, insisted – one hundred days after the outbreak of the war – on the Russian president to make him “aware” that Africa is a victim of its conflict in Ukraine, due to the danger of a serious global food crisis.
The warning cry of African countries
Indeed, the conflict involving Russia and Ukraine, two agricultural superpowers that accounted for 30% of world wheat exports, immediately led to a surge in prices, which already exceed those that triggered the Arab Springs of 2011 and the food riots of 2008. However, the lights are red, no more ships leaving Ukraine – which was also the fourth exporter of corn, on the way to becoming the third exporter of wheat in the world, and alone provided 50% of the world trade in sunflower seeds and oil before the conflict.
While the UN fears “a hurricane of famine”, mainly in African countries which imported more than half of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, Chad, the third least developed country in the world, according to the UN, declared a “food emergency” due to the “constant deterioration of the nutritional situation” due to the war in Ukraine, according to a decree made public on Thursday 2 June. According to the United Nations, in 2021, 5.5 million Chadians, more than a third of the population of this landlocked country in Central Africa, needed “emergency humanitarian aid”. A situation that has worsened due to the war in Ukraine where Russia imposed a blockade on Ukrainian cereals. The decree, signed by the leader of the ruling junta, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, mentions a “growing risk that the populations run if no humanitarian assistance including food aid […] is not provided”.
Africa has avoided condemning Russia
President Macky Sall underlined that the continent’s states were suffering the consequences of the Russian offensive against Ukraine while “the majority of African countries avoided condemning Russia” in two UN votes, and that with “Asia, the Middle East as well as Latin America, a good part of humanity” preferred to stay away from the conflict.
The Senegalese president also noted that the food tensions caused by the conflict have been aggravated by Western sanctions which affect Russia’s logistics, trade and financial chain. He therefore called for the food sector to be “out of the sanctions” imposed by the West in retaliation for the Russian military offensive. “The sanctions against Russia have led to more seriousness, we no longer have access to cereals from Russia, but above all to fertilizers”, he said, judging that this creates “serious threats to the food security of the continent “.
Vladimir Putin, for his part, did not address this subject in the public part of their meeting. On the other hand, he recalled the “support” of the Soviet Union for African countries “in the fight against colonization” and praised the development of Russian-African relations.
Before the meeting, the Kremlin had indicated that Vladimir Putin wanted to take advantage of President Sall’s visit to “give a full explanation of his vision of the situation regarding Ukrainian cereals”. Moscow says the blockage is not its fault or the result of the presence of its war fleet off Ukraine, but is the result of kyiv mining Ukrainian ports. In addition, Russian grain exports are largely blocked due to logistical and financial sanctions imposed by the West to punish Russia for the conflict in Ukraine. To prevent the crisis from continuing, the Kremlin has called for the lifting of sanctions and the demining of Ukrainian ports, a position denounced as “blackmail” by kyiv. On Monday, Vladimir Putin, however, said he was ready to work with Turkey for the establishment of “maritime corridors” allowing the free movement of goods in the Black Sea, including “cereals from Ukrainian ports”. The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, will be in Turkey on June 8 to discuss with his counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu the establishment of these corridors.