Fighting Africa's Food Crisis: Russia Strengthening Ties and Stretching Helping Hand to Kenya
10:08 GMT 03.08.2022 (Updated: 09:17 GMT 14.11.2022)
Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in parts of Kenya; over 4.1 million people in the Eastern African country are considered "food insecure." The severe drought killed 1.5 million livestock, which rural families rely upon for their sustenance and livelihoods, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization has appealed for $172 million in aid for Kenya and other nations of the Horn of Africa; the Western press continues to blame Russia's special military operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine for the unfolding food crisis.
"Ukraine used to produce 11.5% of the world's wheat for export and 17% of the world's export market of maize. Maize flour, known as ugali, is Kenya's staple," CNN wrote
on August 2. "The United Nations' World Food Program, which might step in, usually gets 40% of its wheat from Ukraine."
Russia's share of global wheat exports (around 17-18%
) surpasses that of Ukraine
. When it comes to Kenya, the Eastern African state imports 67%
of wheat from Russia and only 22% from Ukraine, buying the remaining 11% from the other countries of the world. In addition to this, Russia is also Kenya's key supplier of fertilizers, with its global share of the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus export markets accounting for about 15%, 19% and 14%, respectively (2019
). Ukraine's share of the commodity is negligible. According
to Business Daily Africa, Kenya’s fertilizer demand stands at around 500,000 tons per year.
In May 2022, the African Union, a continental union consisting of 55 member states, warned of "collateral impact" as the West's unprecedented Russia sanctions hit food supplies following the beginning of the special operation on February 24. Russia has been disconnected from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) services, with its banking, trade and logistics being lionized by Western restrictions.
"Our countries are very worried about the collateral impact of the disruptions caused by blocking the SWIFT payment system as a result of sanctions," said Macky Sall, Senegal’s president, at an EU virtual summit on May 31. "When the SWIFT system is disrupted, it means that even if a product exists, payment for it becomes difficult or even impossible."
However, the US and its European allies have slapped further restrictions on Russia since then, nearly paralyzing the latter's food exports. In mid-June, West African leaders demanded
exemptions from a ban on wheat and fertilizer imports from Russia.
Russia's Fight for Food Security
Meanwhile, Moscow hasn't sat on its thumbs: by June 1, it had arranged Black Sea corridors for Ukraine's grain
, and teamed up with Turkey to persuade the Kiev leadership to demine its ports and provide a safe maritime passage for bulk carriers.
On July 22, Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian representatives met in Istanbul and signed documents aimed at resolving the food crisis. The Istanbul agreement envisaged not only ensuring safe corridors for Ukraine's grain but also the UN facilitating the removal of Western restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products.
On July 27, the Russian company Uralchem, one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of nitrogen, potash and сomplex fertilizers, announced that it would supply 25,000 tons of fertilizer to Africa free of charge as part of its contribution to the fight against hunger.
"As a key industry player, we understand how important it is to support agriculture, both in our domestic market and in Africa, which is having a very hard time weathering through this economic crisis," said
Dmitry Konyaev, Uralchem CEO.
On August 1, the first grain shipment left the Ukrainian port of Odessa with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praising the development. "In line with the humanitarian spirit of the initiative, the World Food Program is planning to purchase, load and ship an initial 30,000 metric tons of wheat out of Ukraine on a UN-chartered vessel," the UN chief said on Monday.
Kenya-Russia Ties: From 1963 Till 2022
To tackle the food insecurity problem, which hinders the development of the Global South, and the West's sanctions spree, Moscow has unveiled a new edition in the country's foreign policy with a specific focus on Africa
. In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went on an African tour across the continent, holding a series of high-level meetings.
Russia has a long record of fruitful relations with African countries
. During the Soviet era, the USSR forged close relationships with many African nations, supporting their de-colonization efforts and national liberation movements. Over this period, the Soviet Union provided the continent with aid ranging from agricultural products to infrastructural projects as well as healthcare and educational programs.
When it comes to Kenya, Moscow established diplomatic relations with Nairobi on December 14, 1963, and since then has maintained working relations with the Eastern African state. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia continued to strengthen ties with the nation. In July 2008, Moscow and Nairobi agreed on cooperation in the field of exploration, production and processing of minerals in Kenya. In 2013, Moscow arranged
cheap deliveries of fertilizers to Kenya with the assistance of Russia's producer of the commodity, Uralkali.
In 2017, Nairobi reportedly held talks with Russia about the construction of a nuclear power plant in the country, a project which is still being mulled over by the Kenyan leadership. In October 2019, the Kenyan government signaled
its willingness to intensify cooperation with Moscow, including in the field of energy, investment in trade and agriculture. In January 2021, Russia donated $1 million to Kenya's Ministry of Health to fight the COVID pandemic through Oginga Odinga Hospital, which was built in 1969 in the city of Kisumu with the assistance of the USSR.
Russo-Kenyan trade has been steadily soaring over the past several years. In 2021 the total volume of bilateral trade between the countries reached around $400 million. Russia's major exports to Kenya in 2021 included
, in particular:
food products and agricultural raw materials - 45.78% of Russia's total exports to the country;
metals and metal products - 31.48%;
timber and pulp and paper products - 10.45%;
products of the chemical industry - 9.22%;
For its part, Kenya exports a wide range of agricultural and food products to Russia, including live trees, plants, coffee, tea, spices, seeds, fruits, nuts, fish, sea food, etc.
The West's attempts to rally support within Africa in order to ostracize and isolate Russia have largely failed. Back in March 2022, some Kenyan officials made it clear
that they see the anti-Russia sanctions policy being pursued by the US and its allies as a purely political game aimed against Moscow.