Africa is already paying the price for the war in Ukraine

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At Mohammed Charawandi's bakery, in Djerba, Tunisia, on March 18, 2022.

In Egypt, the price of non-subsidized bread has increased by 25% or even 50% in some bakeries since the end of February. In Mali, the cost of cooking oil is skyrocketing. In South Africa, the government is considering capping gasoline prices and rationing the amount of fuel sold to motorists.

Many African countries refused to speak at the UN about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which means that this war was not theirs. Yet the continent is already feeling the effects bitterly, through rising food and energy prices.

“And this scare could not come at a worse time, regrets the director of the Africa department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Abebe Aemro Selassie. Two years of pandemic have twisted homes and state budgets. In today’s continent, resilience is very low. »

In this way, “Without being in the immediate vicinity of the conflict, Africa risks suffering the consequences more severely than elsewhere, because it is emerging from the health crisis more fragile than other regions of the world, confirms Cécile Valadier, analyst at the French Development Agency (AFD). The post-Covid recovery was no longer very strong and fiscal vulnerabilities are high”.

recurring shortage

The main concern is the continent’s food security. Russia and Ukraine are the main suppliers of wheat and fears of shortages have caused prices to soar since the start of the conflict. North Africa is particularly exposed due to its dependence on imports. In Egypt, for example, where bread is an essential component of the population’s diet (102 million people), the country imports more than half of the wheat it consumes. About 80% of these purchases come from the two warring countries.

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In response, the government temporarily banned exports of wheat, flour, or lentils. Above all, it is considering expanding its subsidized bread system, to which it already dedicates more than 2,500 million euros a year. The situation is just as complex in the other countries of the region. In Tunisia, the room for maneuver is narrow for a government that also subsidizes the price of the baguette, but that has to face an abysmal public deficit. Tunisia claims to have cereal reserves for three months. But the population already faces recurring shortages of semolina or flour.

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