Unpacking Ukrainian-African Relations

August 5, 2023
UkraineWorld spoke to Oleh Belokolos, a former Ukrainian diplomat and foreign affairs analyst.
Photo credit: RANE Network 2022

Key points – in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis:

1. On promising areas of cooperation with Africa

We approach the African continent with three distinct groups in mind: East Africa, Southern Africa, and West Africa. We need to kick off with an examination of the commonalities and differences between countries in the region.

Food remains a priority. Other possibilities, such as the humanitarian, educational, and machinery spheres should be kept in mind in the long run.

For example, East Africa shows strong interest in pharmacology and medicine in Kharkiv. But during the war, it is unlikely that the same demand for educational exchanges will be restored.

As for food, Ukraine should not focus only on raw materials, such as grain, but also on ready products such as flour, packaged oil, and juices, which are now supplied by Turkey.

2. On the latest Russia-Africa summit

The vast majority of African countries are neutral in their attitude towards the Russo-Ukrainian war, believing that it is a quarrel between the West and Russia.

The Russian style of blackmail diplomacy has not worked, so while last time there were 54 states at the Russia-Africa summit, this time 21 states were represented.

Moreover the heavyweights did not attend: Liberia, a member of the Crimean Platform, and Kenya, a member of the Ramstein Group, along with others, declined to show up.

Russia's aggressive diplomacy is alienating a number of states.

A Kenyan diplomat put it very eloquently when he said that Moscow's withdrawal from the Grain Deal was a "stab in the back".

3. On finding common ground between Ukraine and Africa

Africa is a continent characterised by the religiosity of its peoples, and they have also faced external aggression. They understand the repressions that Russia is carrying out against Ukrainian Muslims and Crimean Tatars.

But at the same time, the United Arab Emirates has become Russia's window to the Middle East, meaning that the religious motive is unlikely to bring Ukraine and Africa closer together.

Instead, this potential can be found in appeals to fundamental norms of international law. The inviolability of borders and territorial integrity should be the unifying factor in our relations.

Daria Synhaievska
Analyst at UkraineWorld