By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Russian diplomats at the Foreign Ministry have been stepping efforts to get first-hand blistering information on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, its primary causes and implications to African governments.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation, after both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) approved the implementation of the presidential decision that has since sparked debates throughout the world. It has also pushed for the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.
Long before the special military operation started on February 24 aimed at “demilitarization and denazification” in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, there has been information disseminated, either fabricated or the absolute truth about Russia’s intentions using the power of social media. As seen in practice, Western and European media have strong operational networks throughout Africa.
Russian Foreign Ministry is worried about anti-Russia publications, the policy of propaganda and misinformation in some African media outlets. Obviously, Russian media is extremely weak on the African continent, and consequently, local African media replicate information from western sources.
Over these past years, Russian diplomats claim to have a common understanding, expressions of solidarity and trusty position with African friends on global questions at international platforms, especially at the United Nations.
Nevertheless, the African Union, Regional Economic Organizations and the African governments are still and distinctively, divided over the Russia-Ukraine crisis due to divergent views and worse, afraid of contradictions and confrontations posed by the seemingly endless crisis and its effects on future relations.
Some policy experts say this Africans’ voting scenario at the UN opens a theme for a complete geopolitical study and analysis. It is necessary to understand its specific policy implications. As a new world is awakening, African leaders still believe that all countries have to respect and operate within the confines of international law. The circumstances demand settling disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered. All countries must be guided profoundly by the principles of non-interference in internal matters, respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There is much of disinformation spreading around, including inside Africa, and consequently, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special meetings with African diplomatic representatives was to use the diplomatic channels to send down the official situational truth about the Russia-Ukraine crisis to various African governments.
According to reports, Russia and Africa have a close relationship and it becomes necessary to update with substantial information for geopolitical reasons. It was intended to provide an explicit understanding of the genesis of the crisis. With the African diplomatic missions, the Russian Foreign Ministry has held two briefings, and one other special briefing with the Arab countries that included North Africa and the Arab world.
Both on March 10 and 22, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov held special briefings for the heads of diplomatic missions of the African and Arab countries accredited in Russian Federation. It was fully devoted to the entire situation around Ukraine.
The diplomats were informed the reasons, goals and objectives of the ongoing special military operation, including those to ensure the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, protect the long-suffering people of Donbass and eliminate the threat to Russia’s national security emanating from Ukrainian territory. There were also significant issues related to ensuring the security of the civilian population in Ukraine, the organization and operation of humanitarian corridors, and the provision of assistance to refugees.
The Foreign Ministry further explained to the representatives of African embassies questions relating to requests for assistance in providing safe exits (evacuations), including their citizens, from crisis-ridden Ukraine. During the meetings, questions from African diplomats about the activities of embassies in Moscow under the conditions of illegitimate sanctions imposed by Western, European and other countries on the Russian Federation were answered.
In addition to these special briefings, Deputy Minister Bogdanov held bilateral discussions with Ambassadors from Benin, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania. Interesting to recall here that at the UN on March 2, Nigeria and Egypt were among the 28 African countries that voted to condemn Russia.
On March 22, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Vershinin also held meetings with representatives of African states in the UN Security Council – Ambassador of the Gabonese Republic to the Russian Federation, Johanna Rose Mamiaka; Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana to the Russian Federation, Oheneba Dr Lesley Akyaa Opoku-Ware and Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya in the Russian Federation, Benson Ogutu.
Topical issues of Russia’s interaction with the African “troika” in the UN Security Council were discussed, incl. the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the state of affairs in Libya, Somalia, and the reform of the Security Council. While briefing the African representatives, Minister Bogdanov indicated and reaffirmed Russia’s long-term intention to strengthen and develop traditionally friendly ties with African states was reaffirmed.
For their part, the heads of diplomatic missions thanked the Russian side for the detailed coverage of events in Ukraine and the opportunity to exchange views on topical aspects of the Russia-African agenda.
Earlier on February 28, Bogdanov received Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa, Mzuvukile Jeff Maketuka, exchanging messages on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Africa.
During the conversation, both discussed issues of further development of traditionally friendly Russia-South African relations, with an emphasis on strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation in the trade, economic, scientific and humanitarian spheres. Moscow and Pretoria eternally hope to deepen political dialogue and maintain effective coordination of positions in the UN, BRICS, the G20 and other international platforms. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also spoken with his African counterparts, including Equatorial Guinea, Morocco and South Africa.
Russia and South Africa are members of BRICS group. Soviet Union (now Russia) has maintained ties dating back from apartheid times and during the struggle for political independence. South Africa was one of 17 African nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has come under fierce criticism over the official stand on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Prior to the February 24 crisis which unfolded in Ukraine, Russia indicated strong preparedness and high interests to broaden cooperation in trade and in the economic sectors in Africa. With an invariable commitment to strengthen and develop relations in a positive and constructive manner, and especially in these challenging circumstances, Moscow is still planning for the second Russia-African summit. The question of state support and business facilitation has been on the agenda these several years and was discussed during the panel session in Sochi.
Now Russia plans to open trade missions in a number of African countries, and of course, looking forward to exploring several opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides unique and valuable access to an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. In practical reality, it aims at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspeople and investments in Africa.
That, however, it has been, oftentimes trumpeted that the Russian business community lacks awareness regarding the current fast-changing state of the African market, along with trade and investment opportunities. There is an insufficient level of trust towards potential partners. It is necessary to establish an effective system of communication to guarantee reliability and integrity, sharing business information, between business associations in Russia and Africa.
According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, preparations for the Russia-Africa summit are in the active stage. The dates of the summit have not been determined yet. The first Russia-Africa summit took place in October 2019, and it was co-chaired by Russian and Egyptian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The next summit is scheduled for autumn 2022.
US-Africa Leaders Summit: Matters Arising and Way Forward
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
On the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit planned for December 13-15 in Washington, the Corporate Council, in partnership with the African Union and the US State Department, hosted discussions which were a combination of online and offline with some experts from the United States and Africa.
Katherine Tai, the 19th United States Trade Representative and Secretary-General Wamkele Wene from the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Director of the Africa Centre. Taking part was the Dean of the African diplomatic corps in the United States.
This discussion came on the eve of the US-Africa Leaders Summit (ALS), which will advance US-African collaboration on today’s most pressing global and regional priorities. The ALS will reflect the breadth and depth of US partnerships with African governments, businesses, civil society, and citizens-partnerships based on dialogue, respect, and shared values that harness the ingenuity and creativity of American and African people.
There were various themes during the discussion against the difficult geopolitical backdrop of high global economic imbalances slowing direct investment into the continent as well as accelerating shifts in the job market.
Worth noting that the United States – Africa Leaders’ Summit will be hosted by President Joe Biden, and it primarily serves as a demonstration and commitment towards the African continent and further provides the platform for new joint initiatives between the United States and Africa.
The discussion reviewed the current relations as well as possible new initiatives that boost the continent’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, how to bolster food security effectively and to promote investment in various critical sectors, including infrastructure, health and renewable energy, among other priorities.
On the other hand, the discussion also focused on strengthening the African diaspora communities and engaging them in advancing a two-way trade and investment partnership, scaling up innovation and entrepreneurship, and driving advancements in key sectors.
The United States, together with the African diaspora, have a unique opportunity to make sure to change the narrative of trade and focus on inclusion rather than only on market access. Supporting women and youth in identifying opportunities, challenges and also barriers that confront them.
Questions such as what are the challenges that we can confront together and what are the solutions that we can present to heads of state and government to begin to change the previous years of exclusion of young people from mainstream economic activity – of small and medium enterprises from mainstream economic activity to make them partners in their implementation.
The United States understands that African Union and African leaders are looking at regional linkages very strategically and then always around inclusivity. How and what to make better with economic engagement inside and outside, to bring everyone along and not to leave people behind.
The United States already plans to take concrete action to benefit young people, including women, to benefit small medium enterprises and small cum medium enterprises in Africa, creating jobs for over 450 million. And the bulk of that 450 million jobs are young Africans.
The Corporate Council on Africa significantly undertakes tremendous support and even galvanizes the US leadership and engagement in partnership with allies and partners to shape solutions to global challenges in Africa. Its people have a critical role to play in achieving such solutions, Ambassador Tai noted in her discussion.
Nearly the discussants agreed that all would require a combination of private sector activities and governmental actions, and one key governmental framework for Africa is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area promises to deepen economic integration. It creates a single market for goods and services for almost 1.3 billion people across Africa. In fact, 50 African Union members have signed the agreement, 42 members have ratified it, and 39 have deposited their instruments of ratification.
The Secretary General of AfCFTA during the summit will be able to highlight the way forward. The United States intends to fully engage with Africa as the recent Africa strategy says in a 21st-century US-Africa partnership and one aspect of that Africa is friend shoring, which is to say working with reliable partners. It is noted to work within the framework that provides integration between West Africa and East Africa and between North Africa and Southern Africa.
Within the framework of the African Union agenda, the new generation wants to build on the geopolitical partnership dimension in the regional economic communities and with African countries. The point is that there are symmetries, obviously, between the economy and industrial development trajectory and between developing and developed countries.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers rules and regulations relating to trade agreements, especially tariff liberalization; this is an important aspect of building sustainable economic cooperation between the two regions.
The United States and its partnering institutions (both public and private) can best work together to spearhead continuous complementary work as it relates to both business security for participating actors and investors and, including, for example, the African diaspora and beyond the industry for things like creative and cultural industries.
The speakers unanimously confirmed the summit as the highest unique platform to determine the geo-economic centres, examine thoroughly the global priorities and challenges, and concretely design the main directions of U.S.-Africa cooperation. It offers, especially in these critical times, an orientation towards the future, at least the next decade, between the African continent and the United States.
US-African Leaders Summit 2022 aims to enhance cooperation on shared global priorities. The heads of state and leaders from across the African continent will converge in Washington DC, within the context of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit hosted by President Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States of America.
AfDB Fund Offers $8.9bn for Vulnerable African Countries
By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Development Fund (ADF) has agreed to commit a total package of $8.9 billion to its 2023 to 2025 financing cycle to help vulnerable African countries. It is the largest replenishment in the history of the fund.
ADF is the concessional window of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, providing grants and soft loans to the continent’s low-income countries.
The $8.9 billion replenishment package includes $8.5 billion in core ADF funding and $429 million for the newly created Climate Action Window.
ADF-16 core funding represents a 14.24 per cent increase over ADF-15 of $7.4 billion. It is a strong endorsement of ADF and its impact in tackling the continent’s multiple development needs, including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of climate change, fragility, debt, and economic vulnerabilities.
In a statement, it was disclosed that Algeria and Morocco contributed to the Fund for the first time. They joined Angola, Egypt, and South Africa on the list of contributing African countries.
This was disclosed at the fourth and final meetings of the new replenishment (ADF16) in Morocco.
President of the AfDB, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, applauded the impressive funding package saying, “I am impressed by the huge commitment and efforts of the ADF donor countries in stepping up support for Africa’s low-income countries, especially at this time of great economic, climate and fiscal challenges. This is the power of global partnerships and effective multilateralism in support of Africa.”
This replenishment comes as ADF celebrated its 50th anniversary since its establishment in 1972. The Fund is achieving significant impact, and in the past five years alone, it has helped to connect 15.5 million people to electricity, has given 74 million people access to improved agriculture, and 42 million people access to water and sanitation. In addition, 50 million people have gained access to improved transport. The Fund’s resources are also helping to build and rehabilitate 8,700 kilometres of roads.
ADF-16 will support two strategic frameworks and operational priorities: developing sustainable, climate-resilient and quality infrastructure; and governance, capacity building and sustainable debt management in recipient countries. It will also focus on empowering women and girls as a condition for achieving inclusive and sustainable development.
The ADF-16 replenishment will deliver even more impacts over the next three years. It will help to connect 20 million people to electricity, 24 million people will benefit from improvements in agriculture, access to water and sanitation for 32 million people, and improved access to transport for 15 million people.
Commenting further, Mr Adesina said, “These are impressive development impacts. These expected impacts of the ADF will advance the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. They will allow the African Development Fund to build on its reputation as being ranked the second-best concessional financing institution in the world. We will deliver more, better, efficiently and in partnerships with bilateral and multilateral partners. We will foster a climate-smart, resilient, inclusive, and integrated Africa”.
“African low-income countries are the most vulnerable and least prepared to tackle climate change,” said Mr Adesina.
“The Climate Action Window and the commitment to provide 40 per cent of the core financing of the ADF 16 replenishment towards climate finance will help to build climate resilience in Africa,” he added.
World Food Prices Remain Flat in November 2022
By Adedapo Adesanya
Global food prices remained virtually unchanged for the second month in November 2022, according to the latest numbers from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 135.7 points in November 2022, virtually unchanged from October, with month-on-month decreases in the price indices for cereals, dairy and meat, nearly offsetting increases in those of vegetable oils and sugar. At this level, the index stood only marginally above (0.3 per cent) its corresponding value in November 2021.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 150.4 points in November, down 1.9 points (1.3 per cent) from October but still 9.0 points (6.3 per cent) above its value a year ago. World wheat prices registered a 2.8 per cent decline during the month of November, mostly driven by the rejoining of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the extension of the agreement, subdued import demand for supplies from the United States of America due to uncompetitive prices, and greater competition in global markets with increased shipments from the Russian Federation.
International prices of coarse grains also eased in November, down 1.0 per cent from October. Maize prices declined by 1.7 per cent month-on-month, also influenced by developments in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, while improved transport on the Mississippi River in the United States of America weighed on prices as well.
International prices of sorghum declined by 1.2 per cent in November in tandem with maize prices, while those of barley increased by 2.5 per cent. International rice prices moved up by another 2.3 per cent in November, influenced by currency appreciations against the United States dollar for some Asian suppliers and good buying interest.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 154.7 points in November, up 3.4 points (2.3 per cent) after declining for seven consecutive months. The increase was driven by higher international palm and soy oil prices, more than offsetting lower rapeseed and sunflower oil quotations.
International palm oil prices rebounded in November, supported by renewed global import demand owing to competitive prices relative to those of other edible oils, as well as concerns over lower production potentials due to excessive rainfall in parts of major growing regions in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, world soyoil values rose slightly, chiefly underpinned by persistent, robust demand from the biodiesel sector, particularly in the United States of America. By contrast, international rapeseed and sunflower oil prices dropped in November, weighed by, respectively, expected ample global supplies and the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 137.5 points in November, down 1.7 points (1.2 per cent) from October, marking the fifth consecutive monthly decline, but remained 11.6 points (9.2 per cent) above its value a year ago.
In November, international price quotations for skim milk powders fell the most, reflecting lower import demand, as buyers were well covered for their near-term needs coupled with increased export availabilities in Europe.
Whole milk powder prices dropped substantially, principally due to lower buying interest from China, only partially compensated by higher purchases by Southeast Asian countries.
Meanwhile, world butter prices declined on weak import demand, impacted by high retail prices and market uncertainties about consumer purchases in the months ahead.
By contrast, international cheese prices increased, underpinned by a steady import demand and less buoyant export availabilities from leading producing countries in Western Europe.
The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 117.1 points in November, down 1.1 points (0.9 per cent) from October, also marking the fifth consecutive monthly decline, but remained 4.6 points (4.1 per cent) above its value a year ago.
In November, international bovine meat prices fell for the fifth month in a row, as increased export supplies from Australia added to already high supplies from Brazil, notwithstanding China’s continuing strong import demand.
By contrast, world prices of all other meat types rebounded, with the price of ovine meat rising the most, driven by solid import demand, despite seasonally rising supplies from Oceania.
International poultry meat prices also recovered, reflecting tighter global export supplies amid production setbacks in many large producing countries due to intensified avian influenza outbreaks.
Meanwhile, pig meat prices rose on a surge in demand ahead of the upcoming holiday period and the impact of currency movements.
The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 114.3 points in November, up 5.7 points (5.2 per cent) from October, marking the first increase after six consecutive monthly declines.
The November rebound was mostly related to strong buying amid prevailing tight global sugar supplies due to harvest delays in key producing countries and the announcement by India of a lower sugar export quota. Higher ethanol prices in Brazil, raising concerns over a greater use of sugarcane to produce ethanol, exerted further upward pressure on world sugar prices.
Despite the November increase, international sugar price quotations remained 5.9 points (4.9 per cent) below their levels in the same month of last year, weighed down by prospects of ample global supplies in the 2022/23 season.
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