The US and EU sanctions war on Russia targeting food and fertilizer exports, and restraints on Ukraine’s grain exports caused by the country’s ongoing military crisis have raised fears of global food shortages and even the risk of famines in the developing world, particularly in Africa. .
Sputnik’s parent company, Rossiya Segodnya, hosted a virtual roundtable on Tuesday between Russian and African diplomats, analysts and officials to discuss the topic of “global food security challenges”.
The specialists discussed a range of topics related to the current food security crisis that threatens the planet with regard to both Africa and the rest of the world, including its origins, as well as the impact of Western restrictions on Russia in worsening emergency. Specialists also described ways to resolve the crisis.
Oleg Ozerov, Russian Ambassador at Large and Head of the Russia-Africa Partnership Secretariat, underlined that a consensus had formed within the international community that the current emergency occurred long before the escalation of the crisis between the West and Russia over Ukraine in February.
“In the expert community, there is an opinion that the rise in food prices is not accidental and is intended to create an imbalance of resources in the international division of labor with and to move towards a new stage neocolonial policy towards developing countries,” Ozerov said.
The West’s anti-Russian sanctions have served to create new food security problems for African nations, and the way to resolving the crisis is to remove “all obstacles created by Western countries” to Russian cooperation. -African in this field, he said.
The diplomat added that Western sanctions have targeted food despite assurances not to do so, with major Russian banks dealing in agricultural transactions, including with African countries, hit with restrictions limiting their ability to carry out their operations.
Ozerov stressed that food security will be a priority discussion topic at the upcoming Russia-Africa summit and economic forum in St. Petersburg this fall.
Russia a strategic partner
Carlos Sardinha, Ambassador and Director of International Cooperation at the Angolan Foreign Ministry, highlighted Russia’s crucial role in his country’s food security and expressed Luanda’s willingness to expand investment cooperation with the Russian agri-food sector and to forge new private and public partnerships. Angola, Sardinha pointed out, does not produce enough food to meet market demands, and predictions have been made that the country will start facing cereal problems in September.
“Here, of course, we want to take advantage of the long years of cooperation with the Russian Federation to cooperate in the field of food. A lot can be done – we are pinning our hopes on Russian entrepreneurs who will see a strategic partner in Angola,” Sardinha said.
Oleg Kobiakov, director of the Russian liaison office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, warned that the current crisis is taking the planet away from the UN’s sustainable development goals aimed at ending hunger in the world. world and that even before the Ukrainian calamity, the COVID crisis had led to widespread food insecurity for people in the developing world.
“According to statistics for 2021, the number of hungry people in the world reached 828 million, which is about 150 million more than the pre-COVID 2019 year,” Kobyakov explained. Other crises, including military conflicts in Africa and Asia, natural disasters, economic upheaval and runaway inflation caused by excessive money printing, are other factors that have contributed to causing the current crisis, a he declared.
“Progress in this area is possible and requires concerted action by all UN member countries,” Kobiakov said, noting that FAO has proposed the creation of an international fund to support the export of food, fertilizer and energy, particularly to support the interests of developing African nations.
New Russian bank for Africa?
For his part, Louis Gouend, representative of the Council of African Communities in Russia and president of the association of the Cameroonian diaspora in Russia, called for special attention to be paid to logistics, as well as to investments in appropriate commercial infrastructure, and the possible creation of a new Russian bank specializing in Africa.
“Western banks have always been involved in financial settlements, and today all these [links] were ripped off. But I believe this issue is being resolved, and one possibility, I think, would be to open a Russian bank in Africa,” Gouend said, adding that its creation could “significantly simplify settlements between countries.”
Finally, Mr. Cheta Nwanze, Senior Partner and Head of Research at SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical affairs think tank based in Nigeria, focused his remarks on the importance of Russian grains and fertilizers for Africa, pointing out that in the tropical climates that span much of the continent, wheat grows very poorly or does not grow at all.
Unfortunately, Nwanze noted, “many” African agricultural transport companies have sought to avoid transporting grain and fertilizer from Russia, fearing Western retaliation in the form of secondary sanctions. With this in mind, “alternative supply corridors are needed, for example via Iran,” he said.
“The world needs a more honest economic system, which is not dictated by a single group of countries or people”, underlined the researcher.
Tuesday’s event was moderated by Anastasia Alyamovskaya, Chief Specialist of the International Cooperation Directorate of Rossiya Segodnya.