Russia’s summit with Africa falls flat

Russia hosted 17 African leaders in St. Petersburg last week (27-28 July) for the second-ever Russia-Africa Summit.

The proceedings were dominated by one issue: Russia’s suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And Putin’s guests had plenty to say:

  • 🇪🇬 Egypt’s President Sisi said it was “essential” to revive the deal
  • 🇰🇲 Comoros leader Azali Assoumani (who also currently leads the African Union) warned that “the suspension of the grain deal may have some impact on our cooperation [with Russia]”, and
  • 🇿🇦 South African President Ramaphosa said “we are not here to plead for donations”, rather, “the Black Sea should be open.

Putin took a two-pronged approach in response, blaming Western sanctions for shortages, while offering up to 50,000 tonnes of free grain each to several at-risk nations in Africa.

Intrigue’s take: But the free grain won’t replace the 33 million tonnes that Ukraine exported through the Black Sea Initiative in the year it was running.

For a range of reasons, many of Africa’s leaders chose to remain silent when Putin first invaded Ukraine. But as Africa has felt the impacts of Putin’s decision, it seems more of its leaders are now willing to speak up.

Also worth noting:

  • In East Africa, where 80% of grain was imported from Russia and Ukraine, some 50 million people are reportedly now facing hunger.
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group was spotted in St. Petersburg during the Summit, his first public appearance in Russia since leading a mutiny in June.
  • 43 African leaders attended the last Africa-Russia Summit in 2019.