Africa is bearing the brunt of the war in Ukraine and remains ill-prepared to deal with the shocks linked to the crisis, including rising food and fuel prices as well as limiting access to critical imports such as wheat, fertilizer and steel.
The war in Ukraine is consuming immense resources from the West and there is increasing pressure on international and multilateral institutions to channel more funding to reconstruction of Ukraine, which is likely to affect the flow of development finance that African countries urgently need.
“The Ukraine situation has turned things more less upside down. We are probably going to be hit hardest; still difficult at the moment,” Rwanda President Paul Kagame told a press conference on Wednesday.
He noted that many of Africa’s development partners are now focused on the war in Ukraine.
“Their minds are no longer with you. Their minds are focused on that situation and things are bound to certainly get worse,” he said.
“We are in a very weak position on how to deal with our own challenges and later on those originating from outside. For Africa, I hate to believe or see it as a continent just floating on the sea and that can drown anytime,” President Kagame said, calling for a continental strategy to deal with economic shocks.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a year ago, grain exports from Ukraine, as well as food and fertilizers from Russia, have been significantly hit according to the UN. The disruption in supplies pushed prices even higher and contributed to a global food crisis.
The precarious situation has now been worsened by the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria as the West is now competing to help victims particularly in Turkey, which is a strategic ally under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).
“The President of Rwanda is right. The brutal and illegal invasion by Russia of a sovereign country has damaged the flow of vital food to Africa and stoked up inflation which further damages lives and livelihoods,” Andrew Mitchell, United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Development and Africa, told The EastAfrican.
Mitchell allayed fears that aid would be diverted from Africa, saying his government supports the Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the UN and Turkey to reintroduce vital food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world.
“Britain is trying to ensure international humanitarian support is focused where it is needed and not diverted from vital relief in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere,” he said.
According to US based think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, US foreign assistance heading into 2022 was driven by various priorities including combating climate change, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and countering authoritarianism. But since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine has become far and away the top recipient of US foreign aid.
“It’s the first time that a European country has held the top spot since the Harry S. Truman administration directed vast sums into rebuilding the continent through the Marshall Plan after World War II,” the council reported on February 22, 2023.