Millions of Africans have been pushed into extreme poverty by COVID and face rising costs because of the Ukraine war.
Africa has become a “collateral victim” of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, further denting the continent’s ability to fulfil its “enormous promise and potential”, top officials of the African Union and United Nations have said in messages for Africa Day.
Every year, May 25 is marked as Africa Day, the anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963, which became the African Union in July 2002.
“Africa has become the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission. “By profoundly upsetting the fragile global geopolitical and geostrategic balance, it has also cast a harsh light on the structural fragility of our economies.
“The most emblematic sign of these fragilities is the food crisis following the climatic disorders, the health crisis of COVID-19, amplified today by the conflict in Ukraine,” he added. “This crisis is characterised by a shrinking world supply of agricultural products and a soaring inflation of food prices.”
Millions of people in Africa, which has an estimated population of 1.3 billion, have been pushed into extreme poverty by the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, the continent has been hit hard by rising food costs caused partly by disruptions linked to the war.
Russia and Ukraine produce approximately a third of global wheat and barley, and two-thirds of the world’s exports of sunflower oil used for cooking. The conflict has damaged Ukraine’s maritime and agricultural infrastructure, and that could limit its agricultural production for years.
Mahamat said Africa remains embroiled in a ceaseless struggle against “terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crime – human, drugs and arms trafficking”.
The AU chairperson’s statement comes just as the body begins a three-day summit in Equatorial Guinea.
In his message, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that the “war in Ukraine is creating a perfect storm for developing countries, especially in Africa”.
“This crisis is resulting in soaring costs for food, energy and fertilizer with devastating consequences on nutrition and food systems, while making it even more difficult for the continent to mobilize the financial resources needed to invest in its people,” he said.
However, Guterres also recognised Africa as “a home for hope,” hailing the “enormous promise and potential of this diverse and dynamic continent”.
“The prospects on the horizon are bright – from Africa’s growing and vibrant youth population, to initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion, and the African Union’s bold vision for the future, Agenda 2063,” he said