African Union chair Macky Sall, after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, addressed his western and European “partners” with a plea to remove their sanctions hurting African economies.
Senegalese president Sall underscored the pain resulting from the barrage of international sanctions on Russia which have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities, pushing up prices for food and fuel.
“We no longer have access to grain from Russia and especially fertilizer” that is crucial for Africa’s “already deficient agriculture,” Sall said at the meeting of the leaders at Putin’s Black Sea residence in Sochi on the 100th day of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.
Sall was joined by AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat at the confab.
African countries are “victims” of the Ukraine conflict, Sall was quoted to say by the French news agency, adding that food supplies should be “outside” of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.
Neither the U.S. nor the EU has sanctioned Russian fertilizers or wheat, but the African Union is concerned that sanctions on Russia’s financial system will make it harder for countries to buy them.
Putin blames the West for the global food and energy crises and repeated his government’s offers of safe passage for ships exporting grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat and corn.
“We will facilitate the peaceful passage and guarantee the safety of arrivals to these ports, as well as the entry of foreign ships and their movement through the Azov and Black seas, in any direction,” Putin pledged, in remarks carried on Russian state TV after his meeting with the African heads of state.
African countries are especially hard hit by the food shortages and price increases. They imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures, and wheat prices have soared around 45% as a result of the supply disruption, according to the African Development Bank.
“The fact that this crisis brought the cessation of exports from Ukraine, but also from Russia because of sanctions, we have found ourselves in between these two,” Sall told reporters. “It’s of absolute necessity that they [Western partners] help to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grains, but also that Russia is able to export fertilizers, food products, but mainly cereals.”
After initially citing Russian propaganda, Sall’s message is now strikingly similar to Moscow’s line, observes the news site Politico, by driving a wedge in international support for sanctions..
Senegal was one of 17 African nations that abstained from voting on the U.N. resolution condemning Russia’s military action in Ukraine. Sall reportedly told Putin many African countries didn’t condemn Moscow despite what he described as strong pressure to do so.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that 18 million people are facing severe hunger in the Sahel, the part of Africa just below the Sahara Desert where farmers are facing their worst agricultural production in more than a decade. About 13 million more people face severe hunger in the Horn of Africa region as a result of a persistent drought.