Russian President Putin Pledges Free Grain To Six African Nations

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Russian President Putin Pledges Free Grain To Six African Nations

During the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to provide free grain supplies to six African nations as a result of the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal.

This move is seen as an opportunity for Moscow to take advantage of the situation and gain support in Africa amidst Western sanctions and the conflict in Ukraine. Putin specifically mentioned that Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea would receive 25,000-50,000 tonnes of grain free of charge in the coming months.

Putin pledges free grain to six African Nations
Vladimir Putin speaking at the plenary session of the second Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg on July 27, 2023. – Getty Images

The decision to withdraw from the grain deal was partly attributed to Western sanctions limiting Russian agricultural product sales abroad. However, critics argue that the promised grain donations will not offset the negative impact of the end of the deal.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented that the few donations to certain countries would not adequately address the significant consequences resulting from the termination of the agreement.

The Russia-Africa summit aims to showcase Russia’s global influence despite the sanctions and concerns over its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. However, the summit has faced low attendance, with only 17 African heads of state present compared to 43 in the previous summit in 2019.

Also, there are reports of the continued presence of the Wagner mercenary group in Africa, despite previous assurances that its activities would be scaled down.

During the upcoming summit, it is speculated that Putin will use the opportunity to promote a plan for direct grain supply to Africa, bypassing Ukraine in the global market. Russia has previously used the grain issue to gain support from countries in the global south for its actions in Ukraine and to rally against Western sanctions.

Russia has also tried to gain favour among African leaders by suggesting that the grain deal favoured European markets over African nations. While grain exports to the poorest developing countries have not met expectations, the deal has helped reduce global food prices by over 23%.

However, global markets have increased wheat prices since Russia withdrew from the agreement.

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Africa is showing signs of discontentment with Russia’s withdrawal from the deal, leading to apprehensions about a possible food shortage crisis. The Kremlin’s recent announcement reveals that only 17 African heads of state will be present at the summit, less than half of the 43 leaders who participated in the previous Russia-Africa summit in 2019.

The low attendance is attributed to alleged Western pressure on African countries to discourage their active participation in the forum.

The involvement of the Wagner mercenary group, active in various African countries, is not likely to be openly discussed during the summit. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, appeared at the summit, which has drawn attention considering his recent supposed exile in Belarus.

At the summit, Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, was observed meeting with a high-ranking official from the Central African Republic (CAR). This suggests that Prigozhin still holds his position as the head of Wagner, despite previous agreements that indicated his removal by the Kremlin.

Russia’s military has persistently targeted grain infrastructure in Ukrainian port cities, resulting in casualties and damage. Since withdrawing from the grain deal, Russia has intensified its efforts to disrupt agricultural exports from Kyiv, impacting the region’s port facilities and civilian ships.

These occurrences and developments have sparked concerns about Russia’s actions in Africa and their potential consequences on both regional and global scales.

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