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Power politics could derail vital grain deal for Africa

Moscow may cancel the foodstuffs supply accord as Ukraine steps up its diplomacy in Africa and the Global South

The future of the UN-brokered grain deal that has allowed over 30 million tonnes of foodstuffs to be exported from Ukraine across the Black Sea to Africa and the Middle East since July 2022 is threatened by another round of political grandstanding. For now, it has been extended by a further two months but could easily be stopped after that with western powers and Moscow blaming each other for the failure (AC Vol 63 No 20, Geopolitical divides take centre stage at the UN).

Russia has been threatening to withdraw from the agreement blaming the impact of western sanctions on its economy. That stance is prompting concern from African ministers who remain reliant on Ukrainian grain.

Regional diplomats say concerns on food supply caused by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine were a key driving force behind the South African-led peace initiative announced last week.

At a meeting in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on 18 May, Uganda's foreign minister Jeje Odongo, told a joint news conference that he had urged parties involved to consider the plight of 'many African countries, who depend on grain for wheat and bread.'

'Quite a number of African countries, particularly in the northern part of Africa, depend on grain, particularly for wheat and bread. We understand their plight. But we think whatever should be done, should be done in the interests of those in need and not to use their need to the advantage of others.' Odongo said at the news conference.

Having been several steps behind Moscow in the battle for diplomatic influence in Africa in the months following Russia's invasion, Ukraine is now actively stepping up its diplomatic presence in the continent, opening new embassies in Rwanda, MozambiqueCôte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Angola. Kyiv is working on hosting a Ukraine-Africa conference this summer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky have agreed to separate meetings with leaders from Zambia, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda and Egypt to discuss a possible plan to end the war, as part of the 'peace mission' proposed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Zambia and Egypt were the only two of the six to vote in favour of last year's UN resolution condemning Russia's invasion.



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