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Why Ukraine peace talks in Turkey spell respite for Africa

Gas producers like Tanzania, Senegal and Nigeria may benefit from Europe's moves to end its dependence on Russian energy, said Danielle Resnick at the Brookings Institution think tank.

By Bernard Gitonga

Africans could soon have a clear clarity of their fate if a new round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine currently underway in Istanbul (as of Tuesday 29, March 2022) yield benefits – the kind the global community is anticipating.

Turkey is one of several nations – including Israel, China and India – that have shown interest in mediating a resolution to the invasion.

The impact of the war and the West’s sanctions against the Kremlin are already starting to translate into higher prices for farm inputs and imported grain and Africans are feeling the pinch.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects “solid outcomes” from the talks, and wants an immediate ceasefire. Russian forces have largely stalled on the ground in parts of Ukraine, but evacuations are underway in the port city of Mariupol, where the mayor says Russia controls most of the points of exit, according to reports by the CNN.

Available figures show that, in excess of 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began, according to the United Nations – and half of them are children.

Both Ukraine and Russia are also major suppliers of wheat and other cereals to Africa, while Russia is a key producer of fertilizer.

Global oil prices scaled decade-long highs of more than $100 a barrel shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, inflicting a hefty blow to many businesses south of the Sahara.

Back home, the ongoing war is gradually having a huge impact of key sectors such and the construction industry with prices of key raw materials such as steel and cement already at all-time high.

On Monday March 28, Kenya’s Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) is Kenya’s leading Built and Natural Environments professional association expressed its concerns over the impact of Russia-Ukraine war siting further ramifications in the sector’s future if a solution is not met at the earliest.

A steep rise in the prices of building materials has worsened the financial woes of Kenyan builders who are still grappling with the adverse effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Prices of materials such as cement and steel have hit the roof over the past six months, causing concerns among construction managers who are worried about the additional costs they have to incur to keep their sites open.

“An assessment of the market trends has shown that some steel products have increased by up to 40 percent since December 2021 to date. We have since established a number of underlying factors resulting to the rise in paint, steel and cement products,” it said.

In many parts of Africa, the inflationary machine has already lurched into higher gear.

In Kenya, a two kilogramme (4.4-pound) bag of wheat flour now sells for 150-172 Kenyan shillings (US$1.3 to US$1.5), compared to less than 140 shillings in February.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s No. 3 economy usually gets a fifth of its imported wheat from Russia and another 10 percent comes from Ukraine, according to government figures.

As for fertiliser, a 50-kilo bag that cost 4,000 shillings last year now changes hands for 6,500 shillings ($57) — a figure that is likely to increase as the planting season starts this month.

In the Ugandan capital Kampala, Ukraine’s crisis has already caused a surge in prices of soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil and fuel.

Cooking oil has risen from 7,000 shillings per litre ($1.94) in February to 8,500 shillings ($2.4) and a kilo of rice from 3,800 to 5,500 shillings, according to Kampala retail shops.

Wary of Ukraine-fueled inflation, Mauritius’ central bank has raised its key interest rate to two percent — its first hike since 2011.

In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, prices for fuel, cooking oil, construction materials and electricity have shot up.

In southern Africa, bread and cooking oil prices in Malawi have shot up by an average 50 percent.


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