- Just 17 African leaders attended the recent Russia-Africa summit, a drastic drop from 43 attendees in 2019.
- Putin's decision to withdraw from the Ukraine-Russia grain deal, followed by bombing Ukrainian ports, has incensed many African countries.
- South African professor William Gumede accuses Putin of underestimating the impact of his actions on nations where food security is paramount.
Despite President Vladimir Putin's high hopes for a massive turnout at the recent Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, his expectations fell flat. A mere 17 African heads of state graced the event, according to Russia's own count, a sharp contrast to the 43 leaders who attended the inaugural summit in 2019.
Several prominent leaders, including Nigeria's Bola Tinubu, Kenya's William Ruto, Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda's Paul Kagame, were among the notable no-shows. The African continent, comprised of 54 nations and approximately 1.3 billion individuals, maintains a complex rapport with the western world, predominantly due to historical ties and contemporary economic dynamics.
Contrary to the belief that Africa is pivoting towards Russia, such assumptions are largely misguided. Amid increasing isolation resulting from sanctions over his involvement in Ukraine, Putin has been striving to win over the African nations by exploiting the West's historical and ongoing criticisms.
A significant catalyst for the strained relations has been the Ukraine-Russia grain deal. The African nations, while often critical of the U.S. and European economic sanctions, were shocked by Russia's abrupt withdrawal from the agreement that facilitated grain exports from Ukraine. This move, accompanied by bombings of Ukrainian ports, led to significant food losses, much to the ire of African nations like Kenya.
Professor William Gumede of Wits University's School of Governance notes Putin's miscalculation of the continent's sentiment, emphasizing that the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative significantly harmed relations. This UN and Turkey-brokered agreement was a lifeline for nations where food security is a critical concern, even if most of the grains didn't reach the world's poorest countries, it helped alleviate food price inflation.
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