How Russia has outflanked Ukraine in Africa

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Addresses to summits and national parliaments around the world by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky have become a staple of the diplomatic calendar over the last few months.

© Getty ImagesHow Russia has outflanked Ukraine in Africa

But when he spoke to the African Union (AU) on Monday only four heads of state from the continent listened in, with the others represented by subordinates or officials.

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The disappointing turnout was symptomatic of the unequal struggle that Kyiv faces in getting across its message in a continent of 54 countries where it has just 10 embassies – only a quarter of the Russian presence.

So, in trying to shift African perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion war, Mr Zelensky cannot deploy political or security clout comparable with Moscow’s.

Ukraine is not a global military power and it is not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, unlike Russia.

As a result, many African leaders have concluded that they simply cannot afford to emulate direct Western confrontation with Moscow.

That is particularly the case now that the blockage of grain export shipments from Ukraine is contributing to an already serious food crisis, driving up the price of imports and jeopardising the flow of wheat, other cereals and cooking oil to African countries that are not self-sufficient.

Early this month Senegal’s President Macky Sall, the current head of the AU, flew to the Russian Black Sea resort Sochi to discuss with Mr Putin how to free up the obstacles that are curbing desperately needed food exports from both Russia and Ukraine.

A monument to the Russian military has been put up in the capital of the Central African Republic

Cameroon is battling an insurgency by English-speaking separatists and militant Islamists

Many people in Central African Republic welcome Russian military engagement in their country

Violence in Cameroon has forced tens of thousands of people to live in camps
How Russia has outflanked Ukraine in Africa

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