At a summit beginning on Thursday, African leaders expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to commit on grain supply. Some of the leaders would also wish to gain clarification and assurances on the actions of the Russian Wagner group in Africa.
10 days ahead of the summit, Putin pulled away from the Black Sea agreement, which allowed Ukraine, a major grain exporter along with Russia, to export grains to various countries of the world, majorly African nations.
Since Russia terminated the agreement on July 17, Chicago wheat futures, a benchmark for global pricing, have increased by about 20%. Despite being much below their peaks in 2022, they are currently at their highest levels since February.
Putin claimed in a pre-summit article on the Kremlin website that the contract had been “shamelessly” abused by American and European trade companies and that fewer than 3% of the grain delivered had reached the world’s poorest nations, sidelining the treaty’s wider impact on lowering prices globally.
Food insecurity will be the biggest problem facing Africans, according to Mvemba Dizolele, director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. Dizolele said, “Prices just went through the roof in a lot of these countries. So if you are any African leader out there, that’s the last thing you want… It’s absolutely an important national security issue for a lot of these African countries.”
Putin also says that this year Russia will hopefully witness a record harvest and is willing to provide African nations with enough grain supply commercially as well as for free. Though Russia has in its state fund’s stock a little over 3 million tonnes of grain availability, it will distribute only namesake quantity as free aid, said Russian and other analysts.
Analyst at London’s RUSI think-tank and author of the book “Russia in Africa” Samuel Ramani said, “I think we should be looking much more at the (commercial) grain deliveries that Russia’s going to be exporting directly to African countries and whether Russia can get a third party intermediary like Turkey or Qatar to help them with that.”
This would be a lucrative opportunity for Putin to be at an important position above the leaders of a continent. According to Russia, 49 African leaders with their officials will be seen at the event. However, in its accusation it has gone so far so as to blame the West for discouraging African leaders from attending the event.
On the other hand, the West has also accused Russia of “weaponising” grain by pulling out from the grain deal as well as attacking the ports and storage sites of food items in Ukraine. In the days leading upto the summit, US’ top Treasury official will visit Kenya and Somalia, while Ukraine’s foreign minister will visit African nations in his third tour amidst war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is barred from traveling certain countries as the International Criminal Court has issued warrant against him for deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.