Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, there has been an estimate of more than 20,000 casualties. Many people have lost their homes, and neighboring European countries have had to accept thousands of refugees. This war has also been felt across the continent and the world, including Africa.
Africa’s anticipated recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine, has disrupted many countries in Africa, which has raised food and fuel prices, restricted trade, tightened the economic space, constrained green initiatives, and cut funding for development.
A Food Crisis
Climate change continues to impact Sub-Saharan Africa as global shocks upend business as usual. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing what has been described as “the perfect storm” – a food, fuel, and fertilizer shortage exacerbated by the Ukrainian war, the scarring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising debt, and extreme weather conditions.
Across Eastern and Southern Africa, climate change and extreme weather threaten farmers. They depend on a fragile food chain susceptible to unpredictable weather to feed themselves, their families, communities, and countries.
A UN Global Crisis Response Group report indicates that hunger may have increased more widely since the war began.
A World Food Programme earlier report this year estimates that there are 276 million severely food insecure people, up from just 135 million pre-pandemic. By 2022, this number is expected to rise to 323 million due to the ripple effects of the Ukraine war.
Threat to Education
Education is also adversely affected by the food crisis. There is a risk that recent progress will stall, and extreme poverty will rise again. A prolonged and deepening crisis threatens an increasing number of countries.
In the aftermath of the food crisis, more and more young people and children are likely to suspend or abandon their studies. Families living off small-scale farming need children and young people to work and provide for their families. Growing poverty increases child marriages and teen pregnancies, which puts girls at risk of dropping out of school.
Among the most significant future risks is inflation, according to CFOs. There has been a rise in inflationary expectations due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Inflation and rising food prices will affect the poorest of the poor.
A recent survey revealed that CFOs expected upward pressure to emerge despite persisting low inflation over the past decade. The war and supply chain disruptions have only exacerbated this pressure. According to this spring’s survey, the euro area’s expected inflation rate in 12 months has risen from 2.7% to 5.9%.
The inflation and food prices surge for developing countries in Africa is worrying. It may have serious political consequences. Such countries will likely witness more social unrest and demonstrations when food prices rise.
Of immediate concern are countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Niger, Sudan, and Senegal that depend on food imports. The effects of this inflation are likely to increase extreme poverty in these African Countries.
Government Revenues Impacted
Due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, governments across Africa are spending more on social safety nets, resulting in reduced tax revenues.
Sub-Saharan African countries are forced to spend more, with less coming in, resulting in increased public debt.
The downgrade of African credit ratings has also led to higher borrowing costs. Africa pays a much higher interest rate on its borrowings than the rest of the world. According to UNDP research, six African countries could be paying an additional $13 billion in interest rates due to biased credit ratings.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Ahunna Eziakonwa said that the most damaging effect of the war in Ukraine is “imported inflation.” She cited Tanzania’s 34 percent increase in inflation between February and April, Namibia’s 20 percent increase in transportation costs from March to April, and Cameroon’s 26 percent increase in food prices between February and March as examples.
The war between Russia and Ukraine is affecting the economic growth of many African countries. The war and supply chain disruptions have disrupted trade and affected inflation and food stability.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and rising fuel prices will continue to affect employment and purchasing power. It is also expected to affect the government’s ability to finance its expenditures.
The West needs to understand that African poverty results from long-term structural problems. However, the war in Ukraine is exposing these underlying problems.
African governments must devise a resolution to mitigate the effects of this crisis. Such measures include developing robust domestic agricultural systems, implementing targeted policies to stimulate private agrarian investment, and employing young people in agriculture and rural enterprises.
For the West to play its part, bilateral donors must prioritize funding to health and social protection expenditures and maintain support for rural and agricultural development programs to ensure Africa doesn’t slip further.