Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Africa Brief.
The highlights this week: Togo agrees to mediate in Mali, Mozambique and India strengthen defense ties, and Burkina Faso appeals for international help for workers trapped in a Canadian-owned mine.
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Hunger Crisis Looms in East Africa
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned last week that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is leading to a growing hunger crisis in African countries. There is no solution to the problem “without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war,” Guterres said.
The United Nations has also called for Black Sea ports to be reopened to allow grains from Ukraine to reach Ethiopia and South Sudan as well as Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Currently, those ports are under a Russian blockade, which Josef Schmidhuber, an economist with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called a “grotesque situation” because in Ukraine, there are “nearly 25 million tons of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country,” he said at a press briefing on Friday.
The indirect effect from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is worsening an ongoing food and security crisis in parts of East Africa—with Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan forecast to be hardest hit, said the U.N. World Food Program (WFP).
The Horn of Africa region is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years. Three consecutive rainy seasons have been dry. On occasions when rain has come, it has been extreme. October to December 2019 saw the wettest period, affecting 3.4 million people and heralding a swarm of locusts that further devoured crops.
Temperatures in parts of the region have soared to record highs, linked to climate change. Some 3 million livestock have died across southern Ethiopia and within the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya since mid-2021. The U.N. said up to 20 million people in the Horn of Africa could go hungry this year.
African leaders are struggling to control rising inflation and tumbling currencies. Sanctions against Moscow have limited exports and raised costs for commodities such as wheat, gas, and oil. Meanwhile, fertilizer costs have risen beyond what most farmers can afford, threatening next year’s harvest as fewer crops are planted.
Ethiopia has already endured 10 major droughts since 1980. Now, amid a war in the northern Tigray region, the price of fertilizer has shot up 200 percent in the country. As the Ethiopian Reporter tells it, April’s food item inflation reached an unprecedented 43 percent.
Even before the Ukraine war, drought in Kenya had already caused a 70 percent slump in crop production, and more than 3 million people in the country faced acute hunger. (Russia provides 67 percent of Kenyan wheat imports, and Ukraine provides 22 percent.) If the rains fail to materialize by June, around 6 million people in neighboring Somalia—38 percent of the population—face extreme food insecurity, humanitarian groups warn.
As aid and attention has shifted to Ukraine, an appeal by the WFP to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa raised just 4 percentof the required amount. “We are most definitely now sitting on the brink of catastrophe,” Rein Paulsen, director of emergencies and resilience at the FAO, said in February. “Time is running out.”
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, May 11, to Thursday May 12: U.S. Undersecretary of State Jose Fernandez and African heads of state and ministers from Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone are expected to attend the African Mining Indaba conference, which started May 9 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Wednesday, May 11, to Friday May 20: The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, which started May 9, takes place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Thursday, May 12: The United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia, and Senegal co-host the second Global COVID-19 Summit.
Sunday, May 15: Lawmakers in Somalia are expected to elect the country’s new president.
Tuesday, May 17: Former South African President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial continues.
Wednesday, May 18: The U.N. Security Council meets for a briefing and consultations on the regional G5 Sahel joint force.
What We’re Watching
Togo intervention. As tough economic and diplomatic sanctions have failed to pressure Mali’s military government to relinquish power, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé agreed to act as a mediator, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop and his Togolese counterpart, Robert Dussey, confirmed at a press briefing last week in Togo’s capital, Lomé.
After a coup in 2020 and 2021, a breakdown in relations with France, and a failure to meet the Economic Community of West African States’ demand to hold democratic elections in February, Mali has been internationally ostracized.
But many Togolese may consider Gnassingbé an odd choice to negotiate a democratic transition, given the voter irregularities in his own country, brutal crackdowns against dissent, and a long-running movement to remove Gnassingbé, whose military family has been in power for five decades since a military coup in 1967.
Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, speaks onstage during the Zenith Global Economic Forum at the Park Hyatt New York in New York City on Sept. 26, 2018.Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Zenith Bank
Nigeria elections. Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria’s central bank governor, has been told he cannot stay in office while running for president. Emefiele was seeking the nomination of the ruling All Progressives Congress party to succeed current President Muhammadu Buhari, who is serving his final term.
A new law approved by Buhari in February requires political appointees to resign from their roles before party primaries. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission had moved to disqualify his candidacy on that basis. But the bank chief requested to remain in office until 30 days before the election in February 2023 on the grounds that he is not a political appointee. A Nigerian court on Monday turned down that request, and a final decision is due on May 12.
It is unprecedented for a serving central bank governor to join Nigeria’s presidential race, which has sparked outrage and calls for Emefiele to first resign as a civil servant. Nigeria’s political parties have until June 3 to choose their presidential candidates.
Burkina Faso mine flood. The government of Burkina Faso has called on the international community to help rescue eight miners thought to be trapped underground for more than three weeks since an April 16 flash flood struck a zinc mining site in Perkoa, Burkina Faso, (about 60 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou), which is owned by Canadian mining company Trevali. Operations have been suspended since heavy thunderstorms flooded the site and trapped the workers more than 1,500 feet below ground.
At a news conference last Thursday, Burkina Faso’s government spokesperson, Lionel Bilgo, said, “All human and material resources must be deployed on the Perkoa site to give the miners the chance to live.” That assistance did not come until a week later. On Sunday, the European Union and Morocco offered to help, according to the country’s government information service. Burkinabe Prime Minister Albert Ouédraogo said the mining company’s managers have been banned from leaving the country.
India-Mozambique ties. India and Mozambique are to step up joint efforts to counter terrorism as insurgencies in Mozambique threaten gas and coal investments by Indian companies in the country. The decision came after Indian Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri met last week with Mozambican Defense Minister Cristóvão Chume in the capital, Maputo.
Since 2017, the extremist group al-Shabab has carried out attacks in the country’s most northern province, Cabo Delgado. Three state-run Indian companies own a stake of between 10 to 20 percent in a liquified nitrogen gas offshore project of the Rovuma Basin, and a consortium of five Indian companies purchased a 65 percent stake in the coal assets sold by Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto for $50 million in 2014.
This Week in Tech
Vaccine plant faces closure. South African pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare has halted production at Africa’s largest COVID-19 vaccine production plant due to a lack of orders.
Last November, Aspen negotiated a licensing deal to package and sell Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine across Africa. The company had produced about 180 million doses, but a fall in demand means the plant is at risk of permanently shuttering, which would undermine efforts in around seven African countries vying to build a local vaccine industry.
African leaders are holding emergency talks to try to save the plant. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was working with counterparts in Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, and Ghana “to make sure that vaccines that will be used on our own continent are actually bought from companies that make vaccines here.” Only 22 percent of people on the continent have received a first vaccine dose.
In South Africa, which is heading toward a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, there is hesitancy and misinformation. At a Cape Town market, one vegetable seller told Foreign Policy he did not want to be vaccinated because “most in the country have already had the virus” and that “Africans had stronger immunity compared to the West because of having to cope with HIV without medical access.”
Aspen may now need buyers from outside Africa to remain open. Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive at Aspen, told Foreign Policy in December 2021 that one of the company’s biggest concerns would be ensuring the “strength of health care systems to administer these vaccines.”
CAR bitcoin. The Central African Republic has adopted bitcoin as an official currency alongside the French-backed CFA franc. Lawmakers voted unanimously on April 27 to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, becoming the second country to do so after El Salvador. But the move has come under criticism from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which equally criticized El Salvador’s decision because it increased the risk of financial instability.
The IMF toldBloomberg that CAR’s adoption of bitcoin raises major legal, transparency, and economic policy challenges.There are other major hurdles; internet access is needed to mine cryptocurrency—but in January 2021, internet penetration in the Central African Republic stood at 11.4 percent.
Chart of the Week
South Africa is averaging around 8,000 daily cases as it heads into winter and a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, according to the latest figures from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Vaccine uptake has slowed; just 35 percent of the population has had at least one dose of a vaccine. On the continent as a whole, this drops to 22 percent.
What We’re Reading
Xenophobic nationalism. In April 2020, one month into South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, the hashtag campaign #PutSouthAfricansFirst emerged. The movement culminated in the resurgence of violent xenophobic campaigns against migrants. On April 6, Zimbabwean migrant Elvis Nyathi was burned alive by South African neighbors mere footsteps from his home. A deep dive by AmaBhungane examines the political beneficiariesbehind what has been one of the most popular hashtags in South Africa for the past two years.
NFTs in Africa. Journalist Ugonna-Ora Owoh writes in Artsy on the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the African art market, focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. In October 2021, Nigerian artist Osinachi became the first African crypto-artist to have his work sold by Christie’s Auction House in London.
The technology is appealing because it offers better global reach and representation than traditional art markets. As Owoh tells it, across several African countries, there was already an established digital art community, which propelled the industry’s growth. However, pressures remain, including transaction costs attached to creating and minting NFTs.
Exacerbated by the decline in fertilizer imports, crops could be threatened for several years to come. With imports from Russia and Belarus of ingredients like potash constituting some 90% of supply in West Africa, prices have already doubled over the last twelve months.How does the war in Ukraine affect Africa? ›
Food and fuel insecurity
As Africa heavily relies on import of food crop and oil from the warring parties, the Russo-Ukrainian War has resulted in extreme price shocks and a disruption of the supply chains of various commodities across Africa, ranging from wheat and sunflower oil to crude oil.
Long a “breadbasket” for the world, Ukraine's key food exports such as wheat, barley and sunflower oil provide the calories to feed 400 million people worldwide. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40% of Africa's wheat supply.Why is the war in Ukraine affecting food supply? ›
The supply shock provoked by the blockade of Ukrainian exports, coupled with record price levels for energy and basic commodities, led several nations to adopt export restrictions, fuelling market shocks and speculative operations, leading to unpredictability in global food supply.What foods will be affected by Ukraine war? ›
Global cereal and oilseed markets are hit hard by the war in Ukraine. And it can get even worse if we consider constrained exports of fertilizer. The share of Russia and Belarus in global potash trade is 40 percent. Russia alone exports about 20 percent of nitrogen and 10 percent of phosphate.What does Ukraine supply to Africa? ›
Ukraine is a major supplier of wheat, corn and sunflower oil to African countries and, since Russia's invasion began in February, Africa has faced food and cooking oil shortages that have left an estimated 400 million people on the continent food insecure.What does the Russia Ukraine war mean for Africa? ›
Despite these possibilities, in the near term, the invasion of Ukraine could pose hardships for African households, the agricultural sector, and food security. The rising price of oil on global markets—induced by the crisis in Europe—will have direct impacts on the cost of transport.How does the Russia Ukraine conflict influence Africa's agricultural supplies? ›
Many countries in East, West, Middle, and Southern Africa rely on Russia and Ukraine for a significant percentage of their wheat, fertilizer, or vegetable oils imports, but the war disrupts global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, increasing already high food prices in the region.How does Russia and Ukraine war affect Ghana? ›
Russia-Ukraine conflict worsens Ghana's macroeconomic imbalance, threatens growth: expert. ACCRA, April 22 (Xinhua) -- The Russia-Ukraine conflict has deepened Ghana's macroeconomic imbalances in the short term, threatening its growth in the medium term, said a Ghanaian expert on Friday.How is the war affecting Africa? ›
The most visible impact of the war on Africa is the rising fuel and food prices, inflation and financial instability. The poorest are the hardest hit as a large proportion of their consumption expenditure is on food and transport.
Climate change has not been the root cause of the continent's regional famines. Decade after decade, hunger crises have stemmed from a familiar set of circumstances: poor agricultural conditions—including adverse weather, insect infestations, or improper land use—mixed with geopolitical instability.Why does Africa not have enough food? ›
Poverty remains one of the most significant causes of hunger in Africa. More than half of all Africans live below the poverty line (on less than $1.50 a day) and more than three quarters reside in rural areas. It is this lack of money or other resources to purchase food that results in hunger, both chronic and hidden.Will there be food shortages because of Ukraine? ›
As the war in Ukraine compounds with other crises, its impacts are revealing major weaknesses in global food and energy systems. Food insecurity was already on the rise before the outbreak of the war, with an estimated 44 million people at the brink of famine due to COVID-19, climate change and conflict.How the war between Russia and Ukraine affected the food security? ›
Since the beginning of the war, wheat and maize prices have risen by 35%, while overall food prices have increased by 5% globally . On average, in April 2022, the FFPI fell by 1.2 points (0.8%) from its all-time high in March 2022 but was still 29.8% higher than its value in April 2021.How much of world food supply comes from Ukraine? ›
As the UN Food and Agriculture Organization notes, Ukraine supplies up to 16% of the world's corn exports and more than 40% of the world's sunflower oil.What food should I buy for shortage 2022? ›
The Best Types of Non-Perishable Foods
- Dried beans.
- Instant oatmeal.
- Canned beans.
- Canned veggies.
- Canned fruits.
- Canned meats.
- Chickpeas. We love our hummus, but according to Reuters, we might see a drop in the supply of chickpeas soon. ...
- Wheat. ...
- Sugar. ...
- Avocados. ...
- Paper Goods. ...
- Canned Goods. ...
- Eggs and Meat. ...
- Pet Food.
You should prepare for food storage to be ready for natural disasters, the next global pandemic, increased food prices, and future recessions. In addition, food storage is the best way to be self-sufficient for any emergency that results in food shortages and economic instability.Does Africa get grain from Ukraine? ›
The grain will be distributed to communities in the Horn of Africa that are facing severe hunger after four back-to-back drought seasons. “Ukrainian agricultural products are critical to global food security,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.How much food does Africa import from Ukraine? ›
African countries import more than 40% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Prices of grain in the region have increased by 23% in the past year, according to the UN. Ukraine normally exports 6 million tons of grain a month.
What Russia sells, Africa has in the ground: oil, gas, nickel, cobalt, iron ore, and gold. While Africa now depends on Russia for 40 percent of its grain supplies, investment in agribusiness could help realize the continent's enormous potential as a supplier, like Russia, of food.Does Russia export oil to Africa? ›
Russia Exports of crude oil to South Africa was US$41.88 Million during 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. Russia Exports of crude oil to South Africa - data, historical chart and statistics - was last updated on November of 2022.What does South Africa get from Ukraine? ›
The major products both countries export to South Africa are wheat and sunflower oil.Is there still war in Africa? ›
Africa: More than 35 Armed Conflicts
Several armed groups – fighting against government forces and/or against each other's – are involved in these conflicts. Western powers and/or neighbouring countries are intervening in the NIACs that take place in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Somalia.
About 6.26mn t of Ukrainian wheat was exported to Africa in the 2021-22 marketing year (June-July), accounting for nearly 12pc of African wheat imports. Egypt was the largest buyer, having purchased about 2.82mn t, followed by Tunisia and Morocco with 634,000t and 596,000t, respectively.What does Africa import from Russia and Ukraine? ›
Russia and Ukraine, both often referred to as the world's breadbasket, are major players in the export of wheat and sunflower to Africa. North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia), Nigeria in West Africa, Ethiopia and Sudan in East Africa, and South Africa account for 80 per cent of wheat imports.How has the Ukraine war affected food prices? ›
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has projected that the conflict in Ukraine will lead to a rise in global food prices in 2022 of between 8% and 22%. It could lead to an increase of 13 million more chronically undernourished people this year, and 17 million more in 2023.Does Ukraine supply oil to Ghana? ›
Ghana Imports from Ukraine of Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products - data, historical chart and statistics - was last updated on November of 2022.What do Ghana import from Ukraine? ›
|Ghana Imports from Ukraine||Value||Year|
|Meat and edible meat offal||$1.59M||2019|
|Products of animal origin||$1.43M||2019|
|Milling products, malt, starches, inlin, wheat gluten||$1.11M||2019|
Since 1994, NATO has been cooperating with seven nations across the Middle East and North Africa as part of its Mediterranean Dialogue: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Since 2005, the Alliance has also been cooperating with the African Union, of which Ghana is a member.
Those include some of the world's most populous countries: at least 25% of wheat exports in Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan came from Ukraine.How will the Ukraine war affect the world? ›
What countries are impacted by the war in Ukraine? The global repercussions of the war have had catastrophic impacts on countries already facing conflict and crises. East Africa is facing a looming famine, as a severe drought hits the region alongside the disruption in food supply caused by the war in Ukraine.What foods come from Ukraine and Russia? ›
Together, Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world's wheat and barley, more than 70 percent of its sunflower oil and are big suppliers of corn.How can we solve the food crisis in Africa? ›
One solution is to increase intra-African trade as a way to raise the resilience of the domestic and regional food markets to shocks. From this perspective, the AfCFTA is not just an opportunity for economic growth and development, but a necessity to ensure food security and resilience on the continent.What countries are running out of food? ›
According to the Hunger Hotspots Report from the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen remain the countries of highest concern.Can Africa feed the world? ›
With 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land laying in Africa, it is estimated that if all the arable land in Africa were to be nurtured, with the right information and knowledge to farmers from credible research institutions and other technical expertise, Africa would be capable of feeding over 60 percent ...Can Africa feed itself? ›
A recent global study (11), based on the use of gridded spatial analysis and coarse global datasets, suggests it will be challenging for Africa to feed itself, whereas other global and continental analyses (15, 21) project that cereal imports will increase in SSA in the coming decades.What is the most food insecure country in Africa? ›
Food insecurity in South Sudan has reached the most extreme levels since independence in 2011, with 8.3 million people comprising 75 per cent of the population facing severe food insecurity.How does war affect food? ›
Warring parties may plunder an enemy's food supply, deliberately destroying farms, livestock, and other civilian infrastructure. Conflict can cause food shortages and the severe disruption of economic activities, threatening the means of survival of entire populations.How the war in Ukraine is deepening the world's hunger crisis? ›
Ukraine and Russia combined export 30% of the world's wheat, in addition to other food supplies. Now, because of the ongoing war, the price of food worldwide is skyrocketing and 38 countries are facing acute food insecurity, meaning they are just one step from famine.
This will affect all farmers as they rely on imported fertilisers to produce commodities including pastures for livestock. The impact of fertiliser and fuel price hikes will be transmitted to food retail prices, thus impacting consumer prices in the short term.How has the Ukraine war affected agriculture? ›
Moreover, the war has led to the closures of ports and oilseed crushing operations, affecting exports. Ukrainian farmers are showing high resilience to the disruptions caused by the war and are continuing to produce crops and livestock products when the security of agricultural fields allows.What commodities are affected by the Ukraine war? ›
As one of the key grain exporters, Ukraine exports approximately 18 million tons of wheat and 25 million tons of corn every year. The war and resulting production losses will significantly reduce Ukrainian wheat and corn supplies to the global market in 2022/23.What food will be affected by Ukraine? ›
Crop shortages and the rising prices of food, fuel and fertiliser could become a source of further conflicts. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, corn and sunflower oil – and the Russian invasion is expected to lead to a further deepening of global food insecurity.What is Ukraine's biggest food export? ›
Agricultural products are Ukraine's most important exports. In 2021 they totaled $27.8 billion, accounting for 41 percent of the country's $68 billion in overall exports. Ukraine is normally the world's top producer of sunflower meal, oil, and seed and the world's top exporter of sunflower meal and oil.Does Africa import grain from Ukraine? ›
Aid organizations say tens of millions of people are facing extreme hunger in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. They are dependent on grain imported from Ukraine and also from Russia. Cary Fowler is the U.S. special envoy for global food security and is on the line. Welcome.Why does Africa need Ukraine grain? ›
Shipment of Russian and Ukrainian grain is vital for many African countries, especially those facing crop failure due to weather extremes and internal conflicts. The Türkiye-brokered Black Sea grain deal will prioritise African countries in need such as Somalia, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.What does Africa export to Russia? ›
Some countries on the continent, such as South Africa, benefit from exporting fruit to Russia. In 2020 Russia accounted for 7 per cent of South Africa's citrus exports in value terms. And it accounted for 12 per cent of South Africa's apples and pears exports in the same year — the country's second largest market.Does Kenya get wheat from Ukraine? ›
Kenya Imports from Ukraine of Wheat and meslin was US$78.26 Million during 2021, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. Kenya Imports from Ukraine of Wheat and meslin - data, historical chart and statistics - was last updated on December of 2022.How many Ukrainian grain ships went to Africa? ›
Since the “grain initiative” was launched, 16 ships have left the ports of Ukraine for African countries and almost 500,000 tonnes of food staffs have been delivered.
32 percent of total African wheat imports come from Russia and 12 percent from Ukraine.What is causing the food shortage 2022? ›
2022 saw a rapid increase in food prices and shortages of food supplies around the world. The compounding crises in distinct parts of the world were caused by compounding geopolitical and economic crisis. The crises followed food security and economic crises during the COVID-19 pandemic.