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Friday, March 1, 2024

Ukraine crisis: What is at stake for Africa? 

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine crisis that started on February 24 has spread a long shadow throughout Africa, as it does to all nations. Regardless of their geographical distance, Ukraine and Africa have significant links, with over 8,000 Moroccans and 4,000 Nigerians studying in Ukraine and more than $4 billion in exports from Ukraine to Africa. 

Africa’s trade with Russia and Ukraine.  

Recall that in 2020, African countries imported agricultural products worth $4 billion from Russia. Wheat accounted for nearly all of these imports (90%). Egypt was the top importer, followed by Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Kenya, and South Africa.  

In the same way, Ukraine exported agricultural goods to Africa worth $2.9 billion in 2020. Wheat contributed to around 48% of this, maize for 31%, and sunflower oil, barley, and soybeans for the remaining 12%.  

The continuing conflict might disrupt supply networks and hike import costs. It’s also unclear how the sanctions placed on Russia by the US and its allies would affect commercial connections between Africa and Russia.   

Africans stranded at Ukraine-Poland border; Ukrainians has given priority. 

Nigeria and South Africa have expressed worry over reports that their people are being prevented from leaving Ukraine because of the conflict. Many African students at the Lviv railway station in western Ukraine claimed they were sent back at the Medyka border crossing with Poland.  

African nations scrambled to assist their compatriots fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine; amid complaints of discriminatory and unjust treatment of their residents at the Polish border.  

The claims have placed a veil over the mammoth evacuation effort that has already seen half a million citizens travel into the European Union, despite denials from the Polish and Ukrainian officials.   

While some Africans have been able to leave Ukraine, many students said they were turned back by Ukrainian border guards while attempting to cross into Poland. 

While Ukrainians were allowed to enter the border without a visa, Africans were compelled to apply for a visa. 

Ukraine has a visa-free policy with its EU neighbours, which means Ukrainians can cross the border without a valid visa or any other documentation. 

This visa-free policy has made it easier for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion to leave the nation.   

Russian invasion: Nigerian citizens in Ukraine urged to take precautions

Sadly, the Policy was, however, not applied to Africans residing in Ukraine, who were mandated to apply for a Schengen visa in order to visit EU member nations such as Poland, Romania, and Hungary.  

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, made it clear that the borders were open to people from other countries who had been living in Ukraine and wanted to return home.   

Is it necessary for Africans to be concerned? 

Thousands of African students who are enrolled in universities in Ukraine and Russia are stuck by the invasion. 

Also, there are Africans who have relatives residing or doing business with Ukrainians or Russians who should be wary. 

This is sad news for Africa as a whole, given we live on a continent that has always been influenced by outside forces.  

The majority of today’s wars on the African continent are caused by global economic, political, and geostrategic factors. Unfortunately, what is going on in the Central African Republic and Mali today cannot be separated from what is going on in Ukraine.  

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