Free trade of Ukrainian grain 'very important' for Africa, says African Union head

It is critical for Africa that grains stranded in Ukraine can be exported out of the country, the African Union's top official said on Tuesday.

"Yesterday, we listened to the president of Ukraine. What we want is, first, peace and stability and then the possibility to free trade on grains. It is very important for us," Moussa Faki Mahamat told Anadolu Agency while attending a tree planting event in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which is also home to the African Union's headquarters.

"The response we got so far is positive," said Faki, citing a video conference he held on Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky and African Union chairman Macky Sall.

"This war may seem very distant to you and your countries. But, catastrophically rising food prices have already brought it home to millions of African families, as well as to many in Asia, Europe, Latin America," he told the African Union's Bureau of the Assembly.

Shipments out of Ukraine, one of the world's top wheat suppliers, have stalled since Russia began its war on the country on Feb. 24.

Also, a major grain producer, Russia, denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming it on Western sanctions.

According to the African Union, Western sanctions on Russia, in particular its exclusion from the international payment mechanism SWIFT, is preventing some member countries from buying food products.

The EU has defended its sanctions, saying they do not target food and fertilizers.
Africa, home to 1.3 billion people, has become a "collateral victim" of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, further denting the continent's ability to fulfill its "enormous promise and potential," top officials of the African Union and UN have said.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict that escalated into a war on Feb. 24 caused the largest refugee influx ever seen since WWII, according to analysts while it disrupts the global gain supply chain that many fear may entail widespread hunger, particularly in the developing countries./aa