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How will the Russian invasion of Ukraine affect Africa?

The ongoing war in Ukraine could have significant ramifications in Africa, from damaged educational opportunities to weakened economies as a result of disrupted trade.

Russia and Ukraine have both played a critical role in Africa’s development.

Over the years, Russia has provided trade, aid, military training, and paramilitary security in countries such as Mali. Ukraine, one of the dominant wheat producers in Europe, also exports its agricultural products to Africa.

With these deep economic ties, how will the war impact those outside of Russia and Ukraine? Unfortunately, it seems clear that this will distract from urgent sustainability goals and shift focus away from global zero-emission pledges, as nations pivot to prioritise military spending.

In addition, a change in aid and peacekeeping efforts could greatly impact countries currently locked in civil war, such as Ethiopia and Nigeria. Education, trade, and general public welfare may all be hugely disrupted.

The African students caught in the middle

Both Ukraine and Russia offer affordable tuition fees and a number of scholarships to African students pursuing higher education.

Thousands of African students are currently stranded amid the ongoing conflict – despite some crossing over to neighboring countries such as Poland and Slovakia.

Currently, Ukraine accounts for more than 8,000 Moroccan students, 4000 Nigerians, and 3,500 Egyptians, just to mention a few. The Nigerian government vowed to evacuate their nationals from the country as soon as airports opened while the Kenyan government held successful talks with the Polish government for their nationals to have free passage.

A number of African students in Ukraine have asked for financial support online. Currently, young people are moving across the borders with no food, accommodation, or money.

Complaints concerning a lack of effort from home governments have sparked online debate and they demand swift action for their security.

Longer border queues have been a challenge too. Reports indicate that Black students and residents leaving Ukraine have been discriminated against, with priority given to Ukraine nationals.

It is estimated that hundreds of students are still stuck at the borders waiting to cross over, according to reports received as Russian troops entered the second-largest city of Kharkiv.

Economic effects on Africa

News reports indicate that oil prices have shot past $100 per barrel. Russia is the third largest producer after the United States and Saudi Arabia and costs are expected to go up as the industry is disrupted.

The war could further push oil prices up and increase inflation. The rise of imports will eventually make commodities and daily expenditure more expensive to millions of Africans living below the poverty line of one dollar a day.

Although countries may experience economic challenges, some might have new opportunities in the world market for various products in high demand.

Africa’s natural gas, for example, could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia’s energy. Tanzania is currently gaining interest for its gas reserves, which are the sixth largest in Africa. More countries that could benefit from this are Senegal, Algeria, Nigeria, and Niger, which produce natural gas.

Despite these economic possibilities, the war will pose hardships for African households, the agricultural sector, and food security.

The rising price of oil on global markets will have a direct impact on the cost of transport. Most African nations are already experiencing high fuel prices and a continuing war would halt any economic recovery made since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Africa response to the Russia – Ukraine conflict

Some African countries added their voice in condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

South Africa, one of the most developed nations, released a statement calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine territories and urging for peace to solve the situation.

Kenya, which is a non-permanent member in the UN security council, condemned Russia’s actions via their ambassador at the security council.

Part of the speech read, ‘Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force. We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.’

The sentiments were echoed by Gabon and Ghana – who are also in the UN security council.

This comes as Russia is expected to host a Russia-Africa summit this year in November.

We hope the conflict comes to a resolution soon and peace to reign.


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