How Kenya can ease Ukraine was pains
Thursday March 24 2022
By BITANGE NDEMO
- Considering that the war has come at a time when people are trying to address the impact of Covid-19, there would be possible long-term effects if the war escalates to involve other nations.
- Whether we like it or not, Africa can no longer sit on the fence with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
- All that Africa needs is to act with speed to avoid a crisis that could lead to political instability in any country.
Despite the fact that the war between Russia and Ukraine is taking place in the eastern part of Europe, it will have far-reaching implications on Africa’s economy for many years to come.
Already everyone is feeling the effects of this savage war. It is starting to hit the pockets of citizens across the world. In Kenya, for example, fuel prices have gone up Sh5 a liter. The increase has affected virtually every sector, including transportation and agriculture triggering inflation.
Considering that the war has come at a time when people are trying to address the impact of Covid-19, there would be other possible long-term effects if the war escalates to involve other nations.
The risk of expanding sanctions to other countries that may be sympathetic to Russia is now real. And if this happens, then Africa could be in a more serious situation similar to cold war times where proxy wars were used to control resources. Either way, we must reflect on the past and embark on a new development journey.
Whether we like it or not, Africa can no longer sit on the fence with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Already in the Western world, there are talks of leveraging the 3D printing technology to localize the manufacturing and to reduce their dependence on China. The conflict will likely accelerate de-globalization and set the stage for a less integrated world. This too might have implications for Africa given the fact that technology transfer will henceforth be stifled.
Chinese philosopher Sun-Tzu said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” In the midst of the chaos, we are witnessing in Ukraine, Africa is not without an opportunity. These opportunities range from energy to food production. Fortunately, Africa has most of the resources required to exploit these opportunities.
All that Africa needs is to act with speed to avoid a crisis that could lead to political instability in any country.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guteres noted in his address to media last week, “Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat and that grain prices have risen to all time high” . He further noted that virtually all African countries import between 30 and 50 percent of their wheat requirements from Russia and Ukraine.
The intervention that is needed in Africa now is on food security and not just having ordinary meetings we usually have. We need military precision in dealing with these matters. The consumption of wheat for example in Kenya stands at 2,600 metric tones against a production capacity of 300 metric tones. This translates to a capacity increase of 27 times the current capacity.
We all know that Africa is not short of labor and land. With a determined government, capital should not be a major issue if we have to feed our people and avoid unnecessary problems. Therefore, Kenya must lead other nations by example to proactively deal with a clearly emerging catastrophe.
The damage already caused in Ukraine is enough to disrupt farming for the next five years. But if Kenya as a country can decide to invest in sunflower and wheat and support the agricultural sector, as well as use technology and innovation for the value chain, we can start securing our food security as a nation.
The appetite for wheat products in Kenya has increased exponentially over the past few decades surpassing that of maize. In light of the crisis in Ukraine and the fact that the millennial population prefers wheat, the Government must respond appropriately.
By now as a country should be having a strategy to address the impending problem occasioned by war in Ukraine. We should also be having the data on our potential to produce locally and other mitigation measures.
By making data-driven decisions, the country can be able to provide immediate incentives to farmers and work with farmers to monitor the production process.
If we remember the aftermath of the Berlin Wall, the crisis in Eastern Europe forced donor countries to focus their attention on Eastern Europe. Africa was left alone. A similar case might repeat itself. Let us learn from the past.
In the words of an American author on personal time management, Alan Lakein “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now”. These words remain true in situations of potential crisis like an escalation of the war in Ukraine. We have time in our hands to avert a problem that is building up as we watch.
The writer is a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Business and Management Sciences