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Wary of power plays, Africa advocates dialogue

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-02-27 09:34
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Despite pressure from the United States, many African countries have refused to follow it and its Western allies in taking sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, instead calling for dialogue rather than supplying weapons.

Bintu Sakor, a Senegalese researcher of civil wars and post-conflict dynamics, said some analysts have interpreted this neutral stance as a sign of Russian influence or evidence of growing anti-Westernism, which assumes that Africa is a political monolith.

In considering how to approach the conflict, individual African countries have weighed both the short and long-term impact of the conflict on the continent's geopolitics, she said.

The conflict "has exposed the weaknesses of political and economic structures in Africa, and the most severe direct impacts of the conflict worrying Africans are on the region's food and fuel insecurity and internal conflict patterns," Sakor said.

Sanctions imposed on Russia by Western states at the onset of the conflict have not only led to a fertilizer shortage, hitting global food security due to reduced agricultural production and thereby increasing prices, but also negatively affected the export of Russian fertilizers to global markets including Africa, she said.

The Ukraine conflict "has caused extreme price shocks and disruption to the supply chains of various commodities across Africa, ranging from wheat to crude oil", Sakor said. "Closures of ports such as in the Black Sea has been heavily felt by African countries, which have seen an unprecedented surge in prices of food and fuel."

Food exports

In June, Senegalese President Macky Sall and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union, flew to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss with President Vladimir Putin how to free up obstacles limiting food exports from both Russia and Ukraine to Africa.

Sakor said this shows the growing influence and presence of big new players in Africa, allowing African countries to have multiple political and economic leverages on the international stage. Countries can now make decisions that are independent of former colonial powers and the West.

As a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine, she said, there is also likely to be a rise in conflicts in fragile African states that are vulnerable to external shocks. That is why it is in Africa's best interest to see the conflict end peacefully, she said.

Since the conflict started in February last year, many countries have refrained from taking sides in the crisis. In the early days of the conflict, 17 African countries declined to back a UN resolution condemning Russia's role. These countries included South Africa, Angola, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In a debate on the conflict in March, Floyd Shivambu, a member of South Africa's Parliament, said: "We won't support NATO's expansionist and imperialist agenda," he said.

Ahmed Shaik Emam, a South African politician, said it would be unfair to blame Russia as the country is doing all it can to protect its sovereignty, which is constantly encroached upon by NATO.

Sakor said the Ukraine crisis should not be used to arm-twist African countries into taking sides but should be viewed as an opportunity for countries to reduce their reliance on imports.

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