Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Part III: Russia-Ukraine Conflict- Africa Must Not Miss The Opportunity

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(Continued from yesterday)

The majority view in Africa is that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a clash of two giants that have been shaping the world order since 1945.

In spite of the plain history on invasion of other sovereign countries by the West and their support for Israelis who have been slaughtering Palestinians, the West and its media are using the Ukrainian conflict to sustain a narrative that Russian President Vladimir Putin is an iniquitous, revanchist who will stop at nothing but attack and kill innocent and unified Ukraine.

Of course, we all must condemn the death of innocent children and people in Ukraine. Africa and its leaders must do so without bias and hypocrisy. At the very same time, Africa must remind NATO leaders that Africa will not pay a blind eye, in the manner Western and European governments have done, to the senseless killings by the Israeli government of thousands of innocent Palestinian children, journalists, pregnant mothers, the old and sick, in the Middle East. The world simply sits to watch because Big Brother is funding military operations by Israel.

LEVERAGING THE UKRAINE CONFLICT

According to one report by one UN agency, the Russia-Ukraine crisis poses a real threat to food security in Africa as a result of pressing issues surrounding affordability and accessibility of supplies and fuel. The conflict has also exposed how vulnerable our countries have been, in spite of all the aid and so called “capital investment” made to Africa.

Africa has vast arable land, wealthier in natural resources and probably more water bodies and best weather in the world to support growth in all fields of agriculture, energy, and mining. One then is prompted to ask, whether the billions of dollars from the Western and European into capital investment have any effect in creating self-sustaining Africa. Has capital investment into Zambia and the rest of Africa been directed towards the right priorities which can sustain and insulate us from external shocks?

Zambia and other African countries can emerge from this European winner by taking bold decisions that promote increased internal trade on the continent than always look to the West or East. When our countries look to the West or East, we should negotiate business investment that builds our internal capacity to deliver finished products. Most of the capital injection into Zambia, for instance, has been to facilitate the making of huge profits by foreign businesses and not necessarily built capacities that survive without foreign investors.

Zambia’s non-aligned policy was designed to ensure the country does not get entangled in the battles between Western and Eastern giants. Amidst the challenges that have arisen and revolve around shortages of fertilisers and fuel, government must make a decision, boldly and unafraid, to look to Russia with whom we have had trade in fertilisers but also lobby for fuel supply to satisfy our markets.

Our political and trade relations with Russia date back to the Soviet-era when, four days after Zambia gained independence on 24 October 1964, the Soviet Union and Zambia exchanged notes and established diplomatic relations. The two countries signed the Lusaka Agreement on economic and trade relations on 17 December 1971.

The Zambia-Russia trade and investment is currently not impressive compared to that of the United States and United Kingdom. Imports from Zambia are mainly of tobacco, and Russian exports to Zambia comprise agricultural, machinery, motorcycles, and food.

According to the UN COMTRADE database on international trade, Zambia’s imports from Russia in 2021 stood at US$18.9 million, with fertiliser alone accounting for $7.13 million while Zambia’s exports to Russia amounted to US$2.89 million, largely comprising tobacco and its substitutes.

The war in Ukraine plus the IMF conditionalities have turbocharged the sharp surge in prices of fuel and fertiliser which Russia produces in large quantities. The effects can be seen in the increases and monthly reviews of fuel and electricity prices as the country sheds off subsidies.

The conflict now reveals the extent of the continent’s dependence on Western, European and Russian aid to enable it to function. However, this conflict must give leverage to Zambia to negotiate better deals from these parties and use capital to invest in manufacturing.

Zambian political leaders must not shy away from increasing trade with Russia, Western and European government if they genuinely want their countries to develop. Aid is not a solution for Zambia and the rest of Africa but fair trade. We must emphasise establishment of joint business ventures between or among private entities that promote transfer of skills, investment in infrastructure, energy, agriculture, and education. Zambia must develop industries which can survive and thrive, whether in conflict periods or after foreign investors leave.

In particular, Russia must change its approach to Africa by emphasising on trade that emphasises on building human capital. Industrialists in Russia should take advantage of the prevailing conducive economic conditions in Zambia to strike joint-venture deals with their Zambian counterparts rather than concentrate on provision of supplies.

Russia and Zambia should move from the traditional set up which focuses on government-to-government engagement to investing in the people and institutions in Zambia. Russian President Vladimir Putin must consider widening his engagement in Africa to promoting reciprocal training programmes among today’s young African entrepreneurs, who are tomorrow’s future business leaders in Africa and decision makers. Sufficiently equipped young entrepreneurs are future guarantee on best choices Africa must take to competing on the global market – in the Champions League.

[For any comments and contributions, send email to [email protected]]

7 COMMENTS

  1. I have enjoyed reading your articles sir. From your name I can tell that you are a wise man from the east. Most of these upnd supporters from South and west write some very dumb articles.

    We in pf support Russia. I have good Russian friends

    Yes I have changed my name to reflect the level of anger I feel towards this failed upnd government experiment.

  2. Mwanza, your articles are very academic, fit to educate many who are not familiar with International Trade, Politics and Economic development. Well articulated and you have researched well. I am impressed indeed. Keep it up sir with your good work. Congratulations. i have really enjoyed reading your article.

    Paul Simbeye

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  3. Should……must……..Will………..

    At this moment in time zambia is a weak country , good for nothing but raw materials………….

    Untill we develop industrial capacity , we are nothing,

    Immotional attached feelings of nostalgia won’t take us nowhere

  4. I don’t understand the analogy between Ukraine and the Palestinians. The Ukrainians did nothing to Russia. The palestinians bombed Israeli busses and kindergartens.
    Whatever dispute there is between Russia and the Ukraine, We’re safe to say that They did not do terrorist acts or pose a real threat to Russia, while Palestinian terrorists kill Israeli babies.

    Lat but not least, statistics. In this one year, Russia killed more Ukrainians than Israelis and Palestinians killed each other over 50 years of conflict. ‘Nuff said.

    • What Russia is trying to do is go back in time and reclaim its USSR empire, would you put up with the UK attacking and taking over its former colonies such as Zambia, of course not. Interesting to note both Singapore and Zambia got independence in 64, today Singapore is the banking capitol of Asia and world trade . has the highest living standards in Asia and a strong currency. Zambia on the other hand is worse off than in 63 as the political side are corrupt and look after themselves and their friends and the country goes no where.

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