Russia-Ukraine War: Zelenskyy's Africa Relations Agenda Making Firm Progress

Russia-Ukraine War: Zelenskyy's Africa Relations Agenda Making Firm Progress

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is unrelenting in winning over Africa
  • In July, he made a bold promise to guarantee African food security as he pressed forward to build strong relations with the continent
  • If that sounds too ambitious, well, it is. Zelenskyy needs the continent's heart to bolster his country's war effort against the Russian invaders
  • maps out the Ukrainian president's firm progress with his Africa relations agenda

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It has been a bit of a tough call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to formally get Africa's attention at the continental level. But things look promising.

It started with a hard-earned brief address with the African Union (AU) in June. That meeting with the continental leaders was hard-earned because it took quite an effort to set it up. However, once he got their attention, delayed or not, Zelenskyy began sowing the seeds of goodwill and explaining how the food crisis suffered by the continent was the fault of the Russian invader.

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Referring to Vladimir Putin and his generals, Zelenskyy told the AU leaders, notably the chairperson, Macky Sall that "Africa is the hostage of those who started the war against our state."

Zelensky virtual conference.
Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the UN security council during virtual conference. Source: UGC/AFP
Source: AFP

With those symbolic words, Zelenskyy acknowledges Africa's challenges in accessing grains and fertilizer and extends a hand of friendship.

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Zelenskyy is gradually winning Africa over

Zelenskyy held a virtual conference in July with journalists in Africa in what many see as an extension of his strategy for the continent's heart. At this meeting, he was clear and decisive in his expectations of African leaders. He also made the bold promise to guarantee food security for the continent.

"It's difficult for me under the war circumstances to establish relations with the leaders of African countries. But I really long for it. I want us to be the guarantor of food security, I want to develop this further. That is - if the African nations want it, of course - I'm very democratic about this. But we want to guarantee your food security," Zelenskyy said.

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While needing some clarifications on how it can be achieved, the promise to guarantee food security is a master stroke. Earlier, in June, the AU chairperson and President of Senegal, Macky Sall, had lamented bitterly in Paris that Africa was battling a shortage of grain and fertiliser due to the war.

Zelenskyy's timely pitch to ease the continent's challenges in accessing grains has been received well. It is getting him more audience from leaders on the continent and turning the attention of civil society to his cause.

The founder of the influential Ghanaian think tank, IMANI Africa, Franklin Cudjoe, thinks Zelenskyy has demonstrated humanity but adds that African leaders must learn from the food crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war.

"While we welcome Uķrainian support, even though it is unclear if it is for free, Africa can address food insecurity through fixing domestic financing gaps," he told

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Zelenskyy speaks to more African leaders

Just last week, on August 9, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced in a tweet that he held historical bilateral talks with the President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló.

"Had the 1st conversation in bilateral relations' history with President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embaló. Congratulated Guinea-Bissau's leader on election as ECOWAS Chairman. Discussed support for Ukraine in international organisations. Noted Ukraine's readiness to be a food security guarantor in the region," Zelensky said.

Zelenskyy's talk with Embaló is a notable victory for his plan for a stronger partnership with Africa. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that Embaló chairs has some of the most influential countries on the continent. Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal are among the ECOWAS states whose support for Zelenskyy could prove invaluable for his cause.

But already, Zelenskyy has had fruitful bilateral talks with leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Botswana.

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Zelenskyy's demands for Africa are fair

While some experts think Zelenskyy's demands are fair. Zelenskyy wants African countries to stop pussyfooting about the Russia-Ukraine war. He wants regional blocks, whose member states have condemned the Russian invasion at the UN, to do more. He wants countries like Ghana that have vehemently scolded Russia and Putin for invading a sovereign state to lead fellow ECOWAS states to punish the invading country via a boycott.

"There is no value we can attach to freedom, and Russia cannot be using the oil to buy the freedom of others," he told African leaders, who have been discreet about their sentiments about the war and looked unconcerned as Russia wreaks havoc.

He also sounds a wake-up alarm about Russia's interests on the continent. Zelenskyy is reminding African leaders that Russia has not paid much attention to the African continent since the Soviet Union, which is evident in the paltry investment. Africa holds a measly 1% of all Russia's investments globally. Zelenskyy sees this as a betrayal of Putin's self-proclaimed friendship with Africa.

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Russia's invasion threatens the whole world

Since the war broke out on February 24, 2022, Ukraine has sounded a powerful warning to Africa and the rest of the world. The warning may sound exaggerated, but it holds: allowing Russia to continue its unworthy campaign in Ukraine threatens world peace.

Zelenskyy has said that if Russia wins the war it started, other powerful authoritarian countries will follow in the country's footsteps, which will be the beginning of World War III.

"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. The world will be plunged into chaos," he has warned.

So to stop Putin and other leaders with similar tendencies, Africa and the rest of the world must unite around Ukraine to end the invasion. This is what the Ukrainian president has been preaching.

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So far, Zelenskyy, a trained lawyer, has done an incredible job defending his country in the unprovoked war that has lasted for six months. It is time for Africa and the rest of the world to help him. Zelenskyy is not asking for too much for Africa: openly support Ukraine, boycott Russia and spread the word. He does not ask for too much.

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