African Union: Anti-Russia Sanctions Left Africa Without Access to Grain and Fertilisers

Ilya Tsukanov

The United States and its European allies have slapped a series of restrictions on Russian and Belarusian fertiliser companies, while simultaneously threatening Russia’s exports of agricultural commodities to foreign markets. Food security experts have warned that such measures could cause widespread global hunger or even localised famines in 2023.

The West’s anti-Russian sanctions threaten to undermine Africa’s food security and leave the continent without adequate access to grain and fertilisers, Senegalese President and African Union chief Macky Sall has warned.

“Sanctions against Russia have aggravated the situation with the supply of grains and fertilisers to African countries. We no longer have access to them, and this poses a serious threat to food security on the continent”, Sall said, speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday.

“Just this morning I spoke with my colleague from the African Union Commission, and told him that there are two main problems: the crisis and the sanctions, and we need to work to resolve both so that food products, particularly grains and fertilisers, are removed from under sanctions”, the Senegalese president stressed.

Sall also emphasised Russia’s historic significance in Africa’s history, including its “huge role” in helping to assure African independence from colonialism, and expressed “high hopes” for expanding cooperation.

“It is for the sake of this friendship that I am here, among other things. We have high hopes for cooperation between Russia and the African continent, but we are also here to talk about the crisis [over Ukraine] and its consequences”, he said.

Ahead of Friday’s visit, Sall’s office indicated that the trip was “part of the efforts of the current chairmanship of the [African] Union to contribute to the lull in the war in Ukraine, and the release of stocks of grain and fertilizer whose blockage particularly affects African countries”.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat accompanied Sall on the trip, which took place at Russia’s initiative.

Sall’s office also indicated that the African Union had accepted a request by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the organisation by video conference at a later date.

The Senegalese president delivered a message to European leaders in Brussels on Thursday, warning that “the worst may be ahead of us” for Africa, which is still reeling from the global economic crisis caused by COVID, with the Ukraine crisis only serving to compound problems. Sall also expressed concerns about Europe’s move to bar Russian banks from the SWIFT global payment system.

Russia is one of the largest producers and exporters of wheat, sunflower oil, and other agricultural commodities in the world. Russia and Belarus together are also among the largest producers of nitrogen fertilisers globally. Western sanctions against the two countries, combined with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – which has impacted that country’s ability to produce and export its own wheat, sunflower oil, corn, and barley, have caused global prices of these and related commodities to skyrocket. Economists and security experts have warned that these price increases, combined with barriers on the three post-Soviet republics’ ability to export their goods, threaten widespread hunger and accompanying mass unrest in many nations of the Global South, particularly in Africa.

On Thursday, Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency reported that Moscow, Ankara, Kiev, and the United Nations were working on a roadmap for the opening of a corridor for grain shipments in the Black Sea to resume exports. The outlet expects some 20 million tonnes of grain to be released into international markets once a “center for cooperation” between Russia and Ukraine is set up in Istanbul with Turkish mediation.

Also on Thursday, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin reminded UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths that a humanitarian corridor for ships to leave Ukrainian ports has been open since March, and that it was the Ukrainian side’s responsibility to demine the Black Sea ports that remain under its control.