* African countries can play a role in stopping the Russia-Ukraine war and restoring peace in Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine - Ukraine will host this year’s ‘Grain for Africa Summit’ at the end of this month in efforts to promote food security, a spokesperson of the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oleg Nikolenko has said

The programme – an initiative of President Volodymr Zelensky – is funded by donors and international partners and is intended to guarantee food safety, especially in the food vulnerable countries of Africa.

“Basically what we do is we get our grain, ship it to African countries who are most in need and they receive it for free. We already did this programme from last year in which five (5) African countries among them, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, received the grain.

“We want to build on this and to continue this humanitarian programme and even though we find ourselves in war, we really want to share if we can support other nations,” Nikolenko told visiting African journalists on a media tour in Ukraine.

This altruistic nature of the Ukrainian people is borne from a historical trauma known as the ‘Holodomor’ or ‘death by hunger’ of 1932/33 when millions died at the hands of the Josef Stalin regime – which atrocity, Ukraine is reaching out to world Parliaments to sign a declaration recognising it as a “genocide”.

Speaking at the Ukraine Information Centre in Kyiv, Nikolenko underscored the importance of the Grain for Africa programme especially in light of the Turkey/United Nations –brokered Black Sea Grain Deal, which collapsed when Russia pulled out over allegations that Ukraine was using vessels exporting grain and fertiliser through the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi – to smuggle weapons of war into the country.

In-fact both the general manager of Odesa seaport Denys Karpov and the deputy head of the Ukrainian Seaports Authority, Dmitriy Barinov had informed the visiting journalists on Monday that one of their ships was hit by a missile at Pivdennyi and reiterated their appeal for support with air defense systems to protect their ports against ‘Russia’s aggression’.

Ukraine has since developed new alternative routes to avoid the Russian blockade of the Black Sea, Nikolenko told Botswana Guardian citing the ‘Corridors of Solidarity to Europe’ through which grain goes by land to European ports from where it is taken to consumers.

The second route is through the Danube River and the third is through the territorial waters of Ukraine’s neighbours - Romania and Bulgaria – where there is a feeling that Russia will not shoot the ships in the waters of NATO members.

African leaders have been invited to attend this month’s summit, Nikolenko said. Africa counts among the biggest beneficiaries of Ukraine’s grain. For example, statistics of the Grain Initiative from August 1, 2022, to July 17, 2023, shows that a total 144 vessels exported 3.3 million tonnes of grain to Africa.

This composed of shipments of nine vessels carrying 212, 2 000 tonnes to Algeria; 6, 7 000 tonnes to Djibouti; 53 vessels carrying 1.5 million tonnes to Egypt; 11 vessels of 282.7 000 tonnes to Ethiopia; eight vessels of 437, 5 000 tonnes to Kenya; 23 vessels of 558.5 000 tonnes to Libya; seven vessels of 111.2 000 to Morocco; two (2) vessels of 53, 5 000 tonnes to Somalia; another two vessels of 95, 3 000 to Sudan; 28 vessels of 713, 5 000 tonnes to Tunisia.

During the operation of the Ukrainian corridor from August 16 to November 13, some 401, 000 tons of Ukrainian agricultural products were delivered to African countries made up of 14 vessels and 375,1 000 tonnes to Egypt, one (1) vessel of 26 000 tonnes to Tunisia.

Nikolenko affirms that the renaissance in relations between Ukraine and Africa began in 2020 before the full-scale invasion by Russia when Ukraine’s foreign minister Dymitro Kuleba produced the ‘Africa Strategy’ on how to engage with the continent.

Ukraine admits frankly that over the 30 years of its independence, its foreign policy was centred around Europe, NATO and European Union (EU).

Before independence and as a part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had pretty good relations with Africa, marked by training for African students, and specialists in Soviet Ukraine and Ukrainian specialists going to Africa as doctors, technicians and military personnel.

Since last year foreign minister Kuleba did four African tours and visited 12 countries in west, east, north Africa and was in South Africa a week ago (6th November).

“We want to create new opportunities with Africa and build new relationships based on mutual respect and common interests, because Ukraine since its foundation as a founding member of the United Nations, chaired the

Committee to Fight Apartheid in South Africa, we never had any issues with Africa historically that’s why we believe that we have plenty solid bases to make our relationships flourish”.

During the African visit, the Ukrainian delegation discussed projects that they can jointly implement with African countries in the areas of food security, agricultural technologies, education, trade and digitalisation of government services.

“Ukraine is the only country in the world where you have all state services in your smart phone – driver’s license; passport, anything so you don’t have to bring anything but just your phone!”

The high level Foreign Affairs officer said they believe that African countries can play a role in stopping the Russia-Ukraine war and restoring peace in Ukraine based on international law and the United Nations Charter.