Africa is already paying the price for war in Ukraine

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In the bakery of Mohammed Charawandi, in Djerba, Tunisia, on March 18, 2022.

In Egypt, the price of unsubsidized bread has risen by 25% or even 50% in some bakeries since the end of February. In Mali, the cost of cooking oil is skyrocketing. In South Africa, the government is considering capping petrol prices and rationing the amount of fuel sold to motorists.

Many African countries refused to speak out at the UN on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, meaning that this war was not theirs. Yet the continent is already feeling the effects bitterly, through rising food and energy prices.

“And this shock could not come at a worse time, laments the director of the Africa department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Abebe Aemro Selassie. Two years of pandemic have wrung households and state budgets. On the continent today, resilience is very low. »

Thereby, “without being in the direct vicinity of the conflict, Africa risks suffering the consequences more severely than elsewhere, because it is emerging from the health crisis more fragile than other regions of the world, confirms Cécile Valadier, analyst with the French Development Agency (AFD). The post-Covid recovery was already not very strong and fiscal vulnerabilities are high”.

Recurring shortages

The main concern is the continent’s food security. Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of wheat and fears of shortages have caused prices to soar since the start of the conflict. North Africa is particularly exposed due to its dependence on imports. In Egypt, for example, where bread is an essential component of the diet of the population (102 million people), the country imports more than half of the wheat it consumes. About 80% of these purchases come from the two belligerent countries.

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In response, the government temporarily banned exports of wheat, flour or lentils. Above all, he is considering expanding his subsidized bread system, to which he already devotes more than 2.5 billion euros per year. The situation is just as complex in the other countries of the region. In Tunisia, the room for maneuver is narrow for a government which also subsidizes the price of the baguette, but has to deal with an abysmal public deficit. Tunis claims to have grain stocks for three months. But the population is already facing recurring shortages of semolina or flour.

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