Disastrous end of Ukraine war could make EA a superpower

Monday September 26 2022
Russian soldiers

Russian soldiers walk along a street in Mariupol on April 12, 2022. PHOTO | ALEXANDER NEMENOV | AFP

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

On our shores, the Russian-Ukrainian war has so far meant sharply increased food, fertiliser, and fuel prices.

In recent days, however, things have become thick. The Ukrainians seem to have put Russians on the run, though it might be temporary. In September so far, they have retaken more than 6,000 square kilometres of their land from Russian control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now called for the mobilisation of 300,000 troops and hinted darkly that what he sees as a western-led scheme to destroy Russia via Ukraine might be met with nuclear weapons. Putin's mobilisation has sent Russians in flight, with long queues into the countries neighbouring it and a scramble for flights out of Moscow as ticket prices skyrocket.

In April, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, after visiting the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, said America wants Russia weakened so it can't invade another country again.

Russia seems to have played into America's hands, and a long-drawn war of attrition in Ukraine might be slowly bleeding it. The world must pray it doesn't happen, but we can't rule out a nuclear response if Russia feels it is facing ruin.

Until it happens, we won't know whether Russia will use nuclear weapons only in Europe, the US, or both. Also, whether the West would respond in a limited way or try to take the whole of Russia out. The whole world, too, of course, could also be nuked.


However, if the rest of the world is spared, it could alter the fate of Africa. The northern Asian continent and eastern Europe would be badly damaged and set back centuries.

If China and India are spared, they will have to recoil southward and shift everything — including most of their trade and investment — toward the Indian Ocean. A substantial chunk of it will land on Africa's eastern coast.

We would see a dramatic economic rise of the swath beginning from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, on to Durban, Maputo in Mozambique, Dar es Salaam and Tanga in Tanzania, Mombasa and Lamu in Kenya, on to Kismayo and Mogadishu in Somalia, Djibouti, Asmara in Eritrea, and Port Sudan.

The African countries that will profit from the tragedy will be those that are best prepared. The race to build and modernise ports along the East African coast might pay off then.

But that is only a small part. Countries need to invest more in logistics, lay down more fibre optic cable, build roads, and millions of houses, educate their populations, spend big on health, reform business laws, modernise banking and, most importantly, integrate their economies and open their borders to each other.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is just what the gods of Africa ordered when they peered into the future a few years ago and saw a Russia-Ukraine war on the horizon.

There will be diplomatic spoils too. A hugely disastrous end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine could leave Europe weakened, although America might emerge more imperious. That would be Africa's opportunity to seize more global power and get one of ours at the table of superpowers. But, we are a peace-loving people. We don't want to win this way.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the "Wall of Great Africans". Twitter@cobbo3