Are there signs of rising grain prices in Africa as a result of the war in Ukraine?
‘Yes, the ladder. Although it is important to realize that grain prices were already rising in Ukraine before the war. This is due in part to the shock effects of the corona pandemic, such as the worldwide disruption of container freight due to the shutdowns. In addition, due to declining tourism, fewer dollars were received for imports. It’s all in the mix.
“In a country like Kenya, which imports most of its wheat, that means bread has become 10 to 15 percent more expensive last year. The forecast is that prices will rise further due to the war in Ukraine. Countries in northern Africa, which import a lot from Ukraine and Russia, are expected to be particularly affected by this.
‘You can also see it in Oxfam’s report: It contains the rough estimate that a quarter of a billion people will end up in extreme poverty this year. In a minority of cases, this has to do with Ukraine. It is understandable there, the focus is now, but that is not the main problem.
What are the consequences of rising food prices?
‘Many people are forced to adjust their consumption patterns; you must eat after all. Many inhabitants of Africa spend relatively a much larger share of their income on food than the Dutch. Then the bottle of beer must first wait.
“Then it becomes more serious: then the school fees for the children can no longer be paid. The worst consequence, and there is also a warning, is that the number of people suffering from hunger will increase. It should also be noted that this increase is also related to direct armed conflicts, such as in Yemen and South Sudan.
‘There is already a reference to the Arab Spring more than ten years ago, which also arose against the background of rising food prices. So far, there has certainly been no such unrest. People are trying to make the most of it. ‘
Are other prices also rising?
‘Around me, here in Uganda, I hear many complaints in the shops about how expensive things like cooking oil, petrol and sugar have become. Specifically the price of soap has really gone through the roof. It goes back to the disrupted supply chains during the pandemic. ‘
The Dutch government introduced energy compensation and a reduction in fuel taxes. Do African governments also take such measures?
‘No, although I can not say for sure about all the countries of Africa. Here in Uganda, I hear people say that the government should intervene, but I do not see it happening with compensation or subsidies. The Ugandan government is usually only slightly interested in the problems of the people. ‘
How do they view the war in Ukraine there?
“In Uganda, you do not get much out of the conflict if you do not actively look for news. Most people also have something else on their mind: to organize a plate of food every day. It is therefore difficult to assess what people’s attitude towards Russia, for example, is in this conflict.
‘The rules in many African countries are cautious about taking sides between Russia and the West. About half abstained from voting on the UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion. Uganda, which has close military ties with the United States but does not want to oppose Russia, also abstained.
The same goes for South Africa. This has been criticized internally. We are the land of Nelson Mandela and the ANC, how can we quietly see what is happening in Ukraine is a common reproach. Old ties to Russia dating back to the anti-apartheid struggle are mentioned as a possible explanation. Then the ANC received support from the Soviet Union.
“But the pressure on African countries that do not want to condemn the invasion is increasing. The United States wants them to take sides. And this week, Ukrainian President Zelensky has asked him to speak to the African Union. ”