Despite Ukraine for almost a year experiencing the worst times due to an extensive special military operation from its neighbor Russia, it has simultaneously been stepping up efforts to support Africa. During the past year, it despatched tonnes of fertilizers, wheat, grains and other agricultural products to a number of African countries, most them located in the Horn and East Africa.
In order to boost its efforts in establishing cordial working relations especially in the area of economic cooperation, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Kuleba last year visited a number of African countries, held useful conversations with high-powered government officials, and plans to open diplomatic representative offices this year inside Africa. It also plans to boost exports and participate in taking up opportunities of manufacturing offered by the single continental market.
The overarching message in all these is to focus on engaging and expanding the expected long-term partnership, and collaboratively establish trade links. For connecting business interests between Ukraine and Africa, it rapidly studying more possibilities for participating in the African Continental Free Trade Area which was already agreed on, in the process, with a number of African leaders and the African Union.
Another official document points out that Ukraine is considering the implementation of new logistical projects in Senegal to step up exports of its agricultural produce via the Port of Dakar. The current geopolitical situation should rather have a reliable and diversified transit and transport infrastructure to destinations where it is badly needed especially naturally disaster-affected regions in Africa.
Early January, Ukrainian Agrarian Policy and Food Minister Nikolai Solsky visited Senegal, where he signed a memorandum of understanding between the Ukrainian ministry and the relevant Senegalese agency on January 9, the Agrarian Policy and Food Ministry website.
The document envisions the development of bilateral trade in agricultural produce and cooperation on scientific studies, investments, and interrelations between Ukrainian and Senegalese government agencies and private companies. It provides for the possible storage of Ukrainian grain at so-called grain hubs. Ukraine is willing to export not only foodstuffs but also other goods to African countries, which requires the development of logistical infrastructure.
According to the roadmap, it has launched its development projects including constructing facilities for storage agricultural foodstuffs and for onward distribution throughout some regional markets, to offset food shortages in Africa. Ukraine, however, insists that food and fertilizer trade should not be subjected to sanctions or any restrictions.
According to several reports carefully monitored by this author, Zelensky has held 18 conversations with African leaders in 2022, nine of which were the first instances of bilateral communication between Ukraine and these African countries. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry listed some of them such as Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, and Botswana.
President of Guinea-Bissau and Chairperson-in-Office of the Economic Community of West Africa Umaro Embalo visited Ukraine in October 2022. It was the first official visit by a leader of a sub-Saharan African state since 2004, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Kuleba, for his part, held 35 phone calls and meetings with his counterparts from African countries in 2022, the ministry said. The first ever African tour by a Ukrainian foreign minister took place in October 2022. The report indicated that Minister Kuleba visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Kenya.
Ukraine’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa Maxim Subkh, appointed in July 2022, also visited five African countries. Within this emerging multipolar world, Ukraine is broadening its geopolitical influence, and of course it is important for Ukraine to fix its diplomatic presence on the continent to an appreciable level necessary for active interaction, in a continuous and efficient manner, with Africa.
Arriving back to Kyiv after his visit to Washington in December, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a video address, announced that Ukraine would open 10 new embassies in African countries. “We are rebooting relationships with dozens of countries in Africa. We must strengthen this. We have already determined ten countries where new Ukrainian embassies in Africa will be opened,” he said.
It considers Africa as a unique and dynamically developing continent with whom to have relations. In addition, these countries are steadily gaining political weight and achieving significant economic successes, it therefore becomes necessary to look for more new partners eventually targeting African countries.
The Chairman of the African Union and President of Senegal, Macky Sall, together with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, visited Moscow and Kyiv in an attempt to mediate the conflict, but without any result in sight.
“We do not want to be aligned on this conflict, very clearly, we want peace. Even though we condemn the invasion, we’re working for a de-escalation, we’re working for a ceasefire, for dialogue … that is the African position,” Senegalese Macky Sall said, back in May.
Meanwhile, Africa is still divided over the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, the crisis that have caused global economic instability since February 24, 2022. The African Union (AU) and African leaders understand aspects of the geopolitical complexities, implications and possible solutions to the existing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.