The Amplifying Effects of the Ukraine War on Africa’s Ongoing Food Crisis

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, the ripples of the conflict are heavily amplifying Africa’s food shortage crisis. Moreover, the effects of the Ukraine war have extended its arm into Africa economically and politically in ways that prove to multiply existing obstacles towards the preservation of human rights.

Of those that have spoken out about the Ukraine war was Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the son of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni; tweeting, “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!”

However, it is with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the majority of East, West, Middle, Southern, and Northern African states find themselves further in the food security crisis as the number of people facing food insecurity is predicted to rise by 20.8 percent to impact 174 million more people (according to The Human Rights Watch). Although prior to the war, droughts, floods, existing conflicts within the continent, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have aided in the disruption of adequate food distribution and agricultural production throughout Africa.

As Africa begins to take part in the global market, their significant reliance on Russia and Ukraine for wheat, fertilizer, and cooking oil imports has deterred local accessibility of these products amongst African countries as a result of the grain blockade from Ukraine. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FOA) Food Price Index, broken down by The Human Rights Watch, there has been a continuous monthly increase in food commodities by 12.6%, especially between February and March 2022. Accounting for about a third of the world’s export of wheat, barley, maize, and sunflowers, Russia and Ukraine’s conflict pangs the economies of countries like Nigeria, which is the world’s fourth-largest importer of wheat.

Russia and Ukraine are pivotal in the world’s distribution of aid. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) buys and distributes half of the wheat, which has become difficult with the coupled increase in oil and gas prices, making distribution harder. WFP warns of a spike increase in world hunger by 17%. In addition to the 32.3 million people that did not have access to nutritious food because of high rates of poverty, West African countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger continue to undergo some of the worst food crises in the region.

African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesin announced the UN’s warning of the surge of food prices by 22% due to the war’s halt on international trade alongside Africa’s recovery from the COVID pandemic. Combined international efforts had raised $16 billion in one month to provide aid against the war in Ukraine. Whereas the UN had only been able to raise $93 million to help with the ongoing hunger crisis in East Africa. Such a point of comparison is not created to undermine either crisis but to highlight the absence of concentration of the conflict to just a European issue instead of a multi-faceted conflict that involves multiple communities.

The absence of social protection measures towards the incredibly troubling food crises in Africa exemplifies the disproportionate international response to conflicts around the globe. In times of conflict, the everyday lives of those outside the periphery of the conflict are impacted and heavily ignored.