African markets

Why Russia and Ukraine Compete for African Markets

  • Ukraine has pleaded with African countries not to buy grain and fertilizer allegedly stolen by Russia.
  • Ukraine said that without the support of Africa as a market, its economy would suffer irreparable damage.
  • AU leaders reluctantly engaged with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

While Africa is heavily dependent on Ukraine and Russia for its food security, both countries need the African market to sustain themselves in a war that has been raging for four months.

Therefore, whoever manages to get their grain and fertilizer to Africa would be better placed to withstand the pressure.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telephone interview with South African Cyril Ramaphosa, spoke about food security and how Russia could resume exports to the country.

“Food security issues, including the supply of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers to the African continent, in particular South Africa, were discussed in detail,” read a statement issued by the Russian Presidency. at the end of the conversation.

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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, which News24 attended, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, pleaded with African countries not to buy grain donated by Russia because it was allegedly stolen.

“Do not buy stolen Ukrainian grain and respect that we have always been reliable suppliers to you. Help us solve the existing problem and we will continue to trade with you on good terms.

“Russians are stealing grain from the temporarily occupied territories of the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Facts prove that up to 400,000 tons of grain have already been stolen in May,” he said.

He said that without the African market, Ukraine was doomed.

“We are as badly interested in selling our crops as you are. [Africa] are buying them because what is food for you is income for our budget for us.

“And, for Ukraine, that means a lot. It’s a lot of money. And, in times of war, when our economy shrinks, when we’ve lost a good chunk of GDP because of bombings and Russian occupation, this money makes a difference for us,” he said.

READ | 3 ways the Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting the South African economy

Ukraine’s largest wheat markets in Africa are Tunisia (46%), Egypt and Ethiopia (each around 26%, respectively), followed by Morocco (15%).

Overall, Ukraine supplies 10% of the world’s wheat.

Egypt relies on 26% of Ukrainian goods in its corn imports, while 14% of world corn and 47% of all sunflower oil comes from Ukraine.

Kuleba added that Russia could survive the war thanks to its oil and gas.

“Russia will make money selling gas and oil. Russia has enough wheat to feed itself – but, for us, for you, this crisis is unbearable,” he said.

Choose the sides

At the start of the war, 17 African states abstained from voting for a United Nations resolution that condemned the invasion and called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces. This was seen as a middle-of-the-road approach, but a subtle side with Russia.

Since then, Putin has managed to address African Union (AU) leaders, speak to some separately, and meet in person with AU chairperson Macky Sall of Senegal.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has twice tried to address the AU, succeeding only on the third attempt last week.

However, only four African leaders attended the virtual meeting.

READ | Here are 5 reasons Putin and others gave for the invasion

Clearly understanding that Africa was more inclined to Russia’s interests, Kuleba pleaded with Africa to understand that Russia was seeking to become a colonial master, which Africa emerged from in the latter half of the 20th century.

He said:

If Russia succeeds here in Ukraine, it will be a clear message to the entire international community, and to all countries that want to attack their neighbors, that there is no world order that can protect them. No international law can protect them. That the powerful can do what he wants to impose his will on the other.

“They are not the empire, and we are no longer their colony. We are two sovereign nations,” he said.

Kuleba said Ukraine now has an African policy in place, from which the country will seek to have embassies and relations with all African member states.

Part of this charm offensive was to share agricultural technology with African countries.

“We are very advanced in digitizing our economy. We are happy to forge links and partnerships with African countries to bring our technologies to your countries, so that you can benefit from them,” he said.

Zelensky will have a face-to-face meeting with Sall at the G7 summit.

The summit will have the war in Ukraine as a major topic.

Russia was part of the expanded G8 summit, but was suspended in 2014 after annexing Crimea to Ukraine.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced by the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained therein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation