Ukraine, Africa to Bolster Economic Cooperation

January 18, 2023
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba with Senegal's President Macky Sall.jpg

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Despite the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, for almost a year, is experiencing the worst times due to an extensive special military operation from its neighbour 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 of 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 for 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 establishing trade links. For connecting business interests between Ukraine and Africa, Ukrainians are 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.

In 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.

The 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 west African republic of Ghana plans to implement new logistics projects, which will help increase agricultural exports from Ukraine. Ukrainian Agrarian Policy and Food Minister Nikolai Solsky and Ghana’s Minister of Food and Agriculture, Owusu Afriyie Akot, have thoroughly discussed steps to broaden agricultural cooperation and trade relations.

The parties discussed a potential joint project, a logistics hub that will be able to store food products, including grain, and will help stabilize food prices in the region. Besides Ghana and Senegal, Nigeria has also expressed high interest in setting up such hubs in its territory. 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.

“There have been meetings in Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria. These countries regularly take a lot of food products, especially wheat. These are major markets from the standpoint of their populations compared to the European market or many other countries. It doesn’t have much purchasing power, but it is big and is developing, and therefore, it needs to be monitored,” Ukrainian media quoted Solsky as saying.

Solsky said each country he had visited was interested in developing cooperation with Ukraine and ready to expand the capacity of their ports to increase the volume of Ukrainian grain unloaded and stored there. But, before launching the construction of hubs in Africa to transship Ukrainian grain, Ukraine needs to receive guarantees from the countries concerned, including documenting the guarantees and the principles of operating them either by Ukraine, or whether it will be a state company, and how private traders will be involved in this cooperation.

Solsky said that his ministry would provide more information about infrastructure projects in mid-spring 2023, as in the coming months, it would have to hold additional consultations with the authorities of African countries and businesses interested in Ukrainian grain exports to Africa.

Within the framework of the roadmap, it has launched its development projects, including constructing facilities for the storage of agricultural foodstuffs and for onward distribution throughout some regional markets to offset food shortages in Africa. Ukraine, however, insists that the food and fertilizer trade should not be subjected to sanctions or any restrictions.

According to several reports carefully monitored by this author, President Volodymyr Zelensky 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. It has official representation, an observer status, at the African Union.

Arriving back in Kyiv after his visit to Washington in December, President Volodymyr Zelensky, 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 as we have already determined ten countries where new Ukrainian embassies in Africa will be opened. We have also developed a concept of the Ukraine-Africa Trade House. Its offices will open in the capitals of the most promising countries of the continent,” he said.

President Zelenskiy 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 2022.

Meanwhile, Africa is still divided over the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, the crisis that has 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.

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