April 21, 2024

Why would a war so far away matter?

JAELENE THOMPSON

On 24 February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine. For many years tension between the two countries has existed as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1991 both countries declared independence and a treaty was signed. Since then, Russia has tried to take full control of Ukraine as a means of economic benefit and to unify the countries in that area for unilateral power. However, for many years Ukraine has tried to become a part of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) alliance but has been unsuccessful since half of the country identifies with the West and the other half with the East, which is closer to Russia. The media has succeeded in creating the impression that this is a new war, but the truth is that this situation has been escalating for many decades.

   It may seem that a war in the opposite hemisphere has nothing to do with South Africa. However, we have been impacted and will continue to be.

Food security

Russia and Ukraine exports huge amounts of wheat and sunflower oil and the region is often referred to as the ‘breadbasket’ of Europe. African countries are heavily reliant on these imports and because of the war the prices of these goods have gone up which makes it difficult for African countries to afford them. This will eventually lead to a shortage of food in some areas of our continent as not enough of it is grown locally or is exported to other counties and thus food security will be threatened.

   However, this could also be seen as an opportunity for South Africa to grow its own wheat and produce its own sunflower oil as the country has so much arable land that is not being used. We will therefore not have to rely on other countries for food. The farming will allow for job creation and will also serve as an income when South Africa is ready to export.

Oil and gas

Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer. The worldwide sanctions being imposed on the aggressor, Russia, have caused gas and oil prices to skyrocket, fuelling inflation. This in turn could contribute to food-price hikes in the third world. In other words, this could also become a massive opportunity for Africa to produce its own gases and oil. Countries such as Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Tanzania are already producing fossil fuels, but production can be increased which can close the gap between lack of supply and demand.  Furthermore, they can encourage investors to tap into this underutilised worldwide market. Africa can produce its own fossil fuels and improve food security. There may be countries on this continent that have subterranean reserves which have not been discovered yet.

Humanitarian

More than 6,1 million people have fled from Ukraine into other European countries. It is reported that this is Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. Mostly women and children are fleeing from the country as men have been called to join the army.  Unfortunately, human traffickers and sex traders have taken advantage of the situation and exploit the fleeing Ukrainians at the border where they offer them safe passaging or jobs but end up exploiting them for self-serving purposes.

 Thanks to the access of entrance by European Union countries, refugees have been able to escape the on-going occurrence of tragedies in Ukraine. Due to the circumstances the Temporary Protection Directive has been implemented. This grants the refugees the right to stay, work and study in any of the European Union member states for a period of one year. In effect, this poses a threat to South Africans as immigrants are now limited or will have to delay the process of moving as the European countries will not be able to facilitate so many people.

   This war that is taking place so far away has had a ripple effect on the world economy.  Apart from all the detrimental effects, it has also created opportunities for South Africa to consider becoming more reliant on its own resources. It should be noted that this comes at a cost: the cost of innocent lives being lost in both Russia and Ukraine.