Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg sees African leaders plead for a renewed grain deal

Putin aimed to invigorate Russia's connections with Africa during a Russia-Africa summit held in St. Petersburg last week and sought its assistance in opposing what he perceives as U.S. dominance and Western neo-colonialism.

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The Russia summit saw a notably lower turnout of African heads of state or government, with fewer than 20 out of 54 attending. This decline in attendance compared to the previous gathering in 2019 reflects concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite this, Moscow is still striving to build alliances with African nations, which are home to 1.3 billion people, praising Africa as a rising global center of power. The Kremlin attributed the lower attendance to what they deemed as “outrageous” Western pressure that dissuaded some African countries from participating.

Several leaders lauded Moscow’s backing during their countries’ struggles for liberation in the 20th century. The concluding declaration pledged Russia’s support in pursuing reparations for the harm caused by colonial rule.

Leaders from Mali and the Central African Republic, whose administrations have heavily relied on Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, expressed appreciation to Putin for the assistance provided.

African leaders concluded two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but their efforts to resume a grain deal with Ukraine and find a resolution to the war yielded little results.

During the summit, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Russia to reinstate the Black Sea grain deal, which had previously allowed Ukraine a “safe corridor” for exporting grain from its seaports despite the ongoing conflict, until Moscow’s refusal to renew it last week.

Given Egypt’s significant grain purchases through the Black Sea route, President Sisi emphasized the importance of reaching an agreement to revive the deal.

In response, Putin reiterated his stance, as he has done before, attributing the surge in global food prices to policy errors by Western nations that predate the Ukraine conflict.

During a press conference after the Russia-Africa summit, Putin stated that Russia’s decision to end the grain deal had led to an increase in grain prices, benefiting Russian companies. However, he assured that some of the revenue generated from this situation would be shared with the “poorest nations,” although specifics were not provided.

In addition to this commitment, Putin had previously promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to each of six African nations over the next few months. However, this amount pales in comparison to the 725,000 tons previously shipped by the U.N. World Food Program under the grain deal to various countries, both African and non-African.

Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of using food as a weapon of war following its withdrawal from the grain deal and the bombardment of Ukrainian ports and grain depots. This military action has led to a 9% increase in the global wheat price.

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