THE head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, is scheduled to speak with President Vladimir Putin in the south-western Russian city of Sochi in a bid to offset Africa’s impending food crisis due to the war in Ukraine.
According to Sall’s office, Friday’s visit is aimed at ‘freeing up stocks of cereals and fertilisers, the blockage of which particularly affects African countries’ along with easing the Ukraine conflict.
The visit was organised after an invitation by Putin, and Sall will travel with the president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The AU will also receive a video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, though no date has been set.
The meeting comes as the war in Ukraine has sent the cost of fuel, grain and fertilisers skyrocketing around the globe. The price increases are being acutely felt in African nations.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat and other cereals to Africa, while Russia is a key producer of fertiliser.
Last month the UN said that Africa faces an ‘unprecedented’ crisis caused by the war, compounding difficulties facing the continent, from climate change to the coronavirus pandemic.
AU appeal to European Union
Earlier this week, Sall appealed to European Union leaders to help ease the crisis on key commodities.
Sall highlighted that the decision to expel Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system could hurt food supplies to the continent.
Speaking via video link, Sall said: ‘When the SWIFT system is disrupted, it means that even if the products exist, payment becomes complicated, if not impossible.
‘I would like to insist that this issue be examined as soon as possible by our competent ministers in order to find appropriate solutions.’
Sall has acknowledged that Russia’s blockade of Odessa has harmed Ukrainian food exports, and he reportedly backs UN-led efforts to free the port.