BAKU – Up until the fourth quarter of 2020, Africa’s economic growth – despite imbalances and many systemic challenges, including poverty and youth unemployment – was the second fastest in the world, after Asia. But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed growth in Sub-Saharan Africa and could reverse years of economic and social progress. Making matters worse, just as the pandemic began to wane, enabling the continent to focus on recovering from its first recession in 25 years, the war in Ukraine started.
The conflict triggered by Russia’s invasion has complicated the challenges and sources of stress already facing Africa. Some are economic, including debt problems for lower-income countries and excessive dependence on raw material exports. Political instability and terrorism remain a threat in several parts of the continent, notably the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, East Africa, and, more recently, the West African coastal region. Africa is also struggling to manage the adverse effects of climate change and food insecurity.
Against this background, the Ukraine war has intensified socioeconomic pressures in Africa. Because many African countries depend heavily on food imports, the new spikes in global prices of agricultural commodities and oil caused by the conflict have left the poor increasingly vulnerable, with the sharp decline in Ukrainian grain exports aggravating food insecurity in many regions. This threatens to exacerbate latent conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel and may further jeopardize Africa’s prospects of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.