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Tilting strongly to Kyiv, Nairobi cuts deal with Zelensky to counter Moscow's attempts to control grain trade
Following meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa on the margins of the UN General Assembly last week, Kenyan President William Ruto said Mombasa would host a 'grain hub' that would supply the East Africa region with Ukrainian produce. Talks are ongoing with other regional leaders on similar arrangements.
Little detail has emerged on how this will work after Russia abandoned the UN's Black Sea grain deal, making transportation of foodstuffs to Africa much harder.
Kenya has been one of Ukraine's main African allies since Russia's invasion in February 2022; Nairobi's UN ambassador Martin Kimani won headlines for his impassioned speech defending Ukraine (AC Vol 63 No 5, Alliances come under heavy fire). Agreeing to host a hub also gave Ruto another diplomatic victory. Kenya's Ruto has starred at international summits this year, presenting himself as a deal maker and voice of Africa on issues ranging from carbon credits, climate finance reform and now food security (AC Vol 64 No 14, A man for all summits).
Uncertainty over supplies of wheat and grain, whose prices have ballooned since Russia's invasion, worries many African states. Russia withdrew from the Black Sea agreement in July, but has since offered free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea (Dispatches, 25/7/23, Kremlin promises grain supplies ahead of St Petersburg summit).
Ukrainian exports for the whole 2022/23 season stood at almost 49 million tonnes, exceeding the previous season's level of 48.4 million tonnes.
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