Africa faces a double whammy on food -- Russian fertiliser and grain imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared in price
Africa faces a double whammy on food -- Russian fertiliser and grain imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared in price AFP / Simon MAINA

Given that warring Russia and Ukraine play important roles in Africa, there are several repercussions for the continent despite geographical distance. But the crisis can fetch rich dividends for it if the West decides to end its dependence on Russian oil.

The Ukraine crisis has become a perfect storm in Africa with impact visible on three fronts - oil, food, and fertilizer -- as Western sanctions and blockade of ports on the Black Sea have started to bite.

The general mood was echoed by none other than Kristalina Georgieva, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director.

"War in Ukraine means hunger in Africa," Georgieva said March 27 succinctly.

In the oil-rich Nigeria, on the western coast of Africa, around 300 naira (0.72 cents) used to fetch a liter diesel, but now users need to cough up 730 ($1.75) naira for a liter, AFP reported. Africa's leading economy lacks refining capacity despite being rich in oil.

Already, various industries across the continent have started feeling the impact. The soaring fuel prices are expected to hit the African airlines industry, which is already plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic with this year's loss expected to be a total of $23.7 billion, according to the African Airlines Association, which has onboard 44 airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, the biggest in the continent.

"It will be another crisis our industry will have to face," Abderahmane Berthe, secretary-general of the association, observed in an interview.

For a 2 KG bag of wheat flour, the prices are above 150-172 Kenyan shillings ($1.3 to $1.5) compared with less than 140 shillings ($1.22) before the Russian invasion on Feb 24.

Besides importing 10 percent of its wheat from Ukraine, Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, also needs Russian imports. With the planting season starting this month, a 50-kilo bag of fertilizer, which used to cost 4,000 shillings ($34.83) last year, is sold for 6,500 shillings ($57). Imports also from Kenya are affected as Russia is among the top five consumers of its tea, helping it with foreign currency.

In Uganda, cooking oil prices have increased from 7,000 shillings ($1.94) per liter to 8,500 shillings ($2.4).

In 2020, the continent, as a whole, imported food products worth $ 6.9 billion from Russia and Ukraine despite high commodity prices in the global market.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine indeed divided the continent with South Africa, Uganda, Mali, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea opting for Russia and some big names like Egypt, Nigeria, and Ghana, condemning the Russian war-like act.

In total, 28 African nations voted in favor of the UN resolution, seeking Russian troops' withdrawal from Ukraine while 17 nations abstained.

Russia had cleverly courted many African leaders over the last few years and provided military intelligence support to many of them like the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Sudan's powerful military commander Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo paid a visit to Moscow just as Russia started invasion to escape the pariah status imposed by the West for derailing the transition to democracy in the nation.

The second Russia-Africa summit is scheduled for October this year in St. Petersburg. Since 2015, bilateral trade between Russia and Africa has been growing and has reached $ 20 billion.

Led by the U.S. and France, western nations have been doing lip service when it comes to Africa's economic and political stability, home to more than 1.3 people. The vacuum of a Good Samaritan has been filled by Russia and China, and they now exert considerable influence on the continent as a whole with exclusive military cooperation agreements which prevented them from taking sides in the escalating feud in Eastern Europe.

South Africa is playing neutral and even tried to move a pro-Russian Resolution at the U.N.

Western nations alleged South Africa was acting like a sidekick of Russia by trying to present a resolution favorable to Moscow.

There are still many pro-Russia and anti-West elements in the ruling ANC party, whom South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa , who has to seek re-election as ANC leader next year, was trying to please by playing neutral.

Africa's leading economy has investments in Russia which are pegged at nearly 80 billion South African rand ($5 billion), while Russian sits pretty with investments in South Africa well above 23 billion rand ($1.57 billion).

Ukraine is the prime destination for many African students to burn the midnight oil and around 20 percent of over 80,000 international students in the country trace their origin to African nations like Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco. Fear for their safety, Ghana has urged its more than 1,000 nationals to take shelter in their homes or in government-approved centers.

The Russian invasion has thrown open massive opportunities for oil- and gas-producing African nations as the west is scouting for alternatives to bypass the Russian gas.