Africa unites against Russia-Ukraine war food, fuel crisis shocks: UN agency

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

THE United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has called for collaboration among African countries to minimise the impact of the Russian-Ukranian war on global supply chains.

Following the start of the Russian offensive on Ukraine, the continent is faced with renewed shortages of food, fuel and fertilizer, among other essential commodities.

In a statement Monday, UNECA, said Africa must draw lessons from the successful collaborations among nations that reduced impacts on individual countries, particularly in accessing Covid-19 vaccines.

“Two years after the emergence of Covid-19, Africa has absorbed a number of lessons which will prove crucial as the continent confronts the new food, fuel and fertilizer crisis reverberating across the world as the Russia-Ukraine war creates historic, global trade and commodity disruptions.

“The Russia-Ukraine crisis has increased the strain on critical supply chains in commodity markets, with current and expected price increases in agricultural products and inputs such as cereals and fertilisers.

“This has in turn put pressure on sometimes fragile domestic production for several African countries relying on these supply chains for staple goods, some of which depend on these imports for up to 80% consumption of wheat for instance,” noted the UN agency.

“The crisis has larger implications downstream effects of potential supply chain constraints that can trigger price hikes, increase vulnerability and food insecurity, building unsustainable pressure on already stretched fiscal environments.”

UNECA said Africa must harness the synergies built during the fight against coronavirus to confront shocks wrought by the latest war in Europe, which has seen sanctions against Russia, a global oil supplier.

Building on the African Development Bank’s US$1, 5 billion emergency food production plan to mitigate the effect of the war on food prices through rapid production of wheat, maize, rice and soybean, AFREXIMBANK has undertaken a collaboration with other key continental institutions including, the AfCFTA Secretariat, and UNECA to launch the Africa Trade Exchange (ATEX), a platform to pool-procure bulk basic commodities and ensure countries access scarce supplies in a transparent and equitable manner.

Richard Zishiri,  a local supply chain and logistics expert, concurred saying centralised sourcing of goods in the wake of the Russian-Ukranian battle could go a long way in reducing disruptions, and resultant shortages.

“If African countries, which are mostly poor and under resourced, work collectively, and react fast and early, potential crises could be averted. Goods and services will remain available and at relatively affordable prices as the war rages,” said Zishiri.

He said relationships and networks built during Covid-19 pandemic engagements should be strengthened to tackle supply chain glitches which trigger unavailability of food, fuel and other goods and services.

At the height of the continental response to Covid-19, over 38 countries locked down within three months of the crisis and adopted new protocols to manage cross border trade and associated traffic harmonised across regions.

The Africa Medical Supplies Platform and the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), were also created to enable the continent source critically needed supplies to fight the pandemic at competitive prices.