Africans Know Pain of Being Ignored: Zelenskyy on Why Africa Should Support Ukraine in Exclusive Interview

Africans Know Pain of Being Ignored: Zelenskyy on Why Africa Should Support Ukraine in Exclusive Interview

  • Ukraine's President Zelenskyy appealed to African people and its leaders to support them as it battles Russian invasion of his country
  • He reminded Africans that the Putin-led country does not believe in the continent since it only invests 1% in it
  • To the several African countries which have remained neutral during this invasion, he cautioned their leaders, saying neutrality on political attitudes is strange
  • Zelenskyy, who was speaking to a group of African journalists, also dismissed media reports indicating Putin is ready to negotiate

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“African countries should support Ukraine because they know how it hurts when the world does not pay attention to your problem”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is reminding the African people and their leaders to support his country, which is deep in the throes of war following Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine's Zelensky
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zeleskyy during a virtual meeting.
Source: Getty Images

Over 25 countries out of 54 in Africa remained neutral and others chose to abstain from voting during the UN General Assembly resolution where countries condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This explains why Ukraine is seeking support from the African states as Russia is busy wooing Africa with the recent trip by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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African Countries Cannot Remain Neutral

Zelenskyy, who spoke to African journalists during a digital press conference, sought to remind Africa of Russia’s role in the continent’s current economic pressures emanating from the invasion as well as caution select countries which have abstained from lending their voice in condemning the war.

“There cannot be any neutrality between life and death. Between life and famine. There can be no neutrality caused by the lack of money, or weapons, or political influence. Probably one couldn’t influence something, but diplomatically you must condemn [those bringing] the death. You may not have the weapons, you may not be the world’s largest country. But you can’t remain neutral. Whenever you're neutral to the war, from a large country you turn into a small country, nobody can see you.”

Zelenskyy cautioned African leaders to refrain from welcoming the Russian delegation and instead join other regions in the country which are giving the Putin-led country diplomatic isolation.

“You welcome them because they are not starting war in your country. But the matter is, they are not interested in world stability. They want to be influential. So, while coming to you or to other African countries they are conducting wars elsewhere, There’s full scale war in Ukraine,” he explained.

Ukraine and Africa are similar

As to why Africa should support Ukraine yet the continent didn’t get the world’s enough support when it needed, Zelenskyy said the continent and Ukraine are similar in so many ways as they understand how it feels when ignored.

“We do not divide the countries of the African continent into those who advocate neutrality in the war against us and those who support us. We know and are ready to supply all countries with grain and wheat. Because hunger is never neutral.”

Russia Not Interested in Investing in Africa

The Ukrainian president further pointed out that Russia’s investments are only political, and it’s not genuine in investing in Africa.

​“Russia invests in total less than 1% of all investments in the African continent. Russia does not invest in you as in countries, nations or societies. This means that Russia does not believe in you. All Russian investments are just political.”

Zelenskyy warned African countries, saying Russia has not paid much attention to the African continent since the Soviet Union's time, further referring to Russia blocking the Ukrainian ports and preventing the export of agricultural products to Africa.

Volodymyr Zelensky
President Zeleskyy who spoke to a group of African journalists on Thursday, August 4 decried struggle to access African leaders.
Source: UGC

Seeking Ties With Africa

Speaking on Thursday, August 4, Zelenskyy said it’s difficult for him to establish relations with Africa with the ongoing war, but he’s willing to try, indicating he’s sending his Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to Africa in September.

“We want African countries to support not just Ukraine but the truth. And we are ready to guarantee food security for the African continent, while we do not ask to exclude supplies from Russia. It's your choice.”

Zelenskyy believes there will be more economic projects with African states saying the country will be very happy to invest in Africa, but he decried the lack of access to African leaders. “ It is very hard to get access. I mean even me, the president of Ukraine. I can’t find access to the leaders of African countries.”

Benefits Africa can get from Ukraine

The president also detailed how Africa could benefit from having good relations with Ukraine aside from the agricultural exports starting with digital services and IT technology.

According to Zelenskyy, Ukraine is a digitalised country with smartphone IDs and a high level of instant services. Those ones that have previously been provided on paper are now digitised. Its citizens can start or close a company in just 15 minutes.

He is willing to upscale these services implemented in African countries as well.

“We’re ready to scale up those services and we’re ready to provide the African countries with these services”.

In June Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak urged African countries to lend their voice through international organisations and impose sanctions against Russia in a bid to stop the Russian invasion.

The invasion created artificial energy and food crises after Russia blocked key ports preventing the export of agricultural products to Africa and other countries.

As the invasion rages on, Zelenskyy has vowed to fight to the end saying how the war ends is dependent on how the world unites around Ukraine.

“If Putin wins this war, it will be the beginning of World War III. I’m confident about it. The big world autocracies will do the same and the world will be plunged into chaos. God forbid that Russia wins this war.”

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