The Russian-Ukrainian War: Distant Conflict, Local Consequences

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Russia and Ukraine may be tens of thousands of kilometers from South Africa, but the former’s invasion of the latter would have serious consequences for the country’s citizens.

Source: Submitted.  Russell Morena, CEO of the Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA).

Source: Submitted. Russell Morena, CEO of the Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA).

When Russia unleashed its military forces on Ukraine on February 24, its leader, Vladimir Putin, said the attack was aimed at protecting Ukrainians who had suffered humiliation and genocide at the hands of his government. He added that this would be achieved through the destruction of the Ukrainian military and the extermination of the Nazis.

While it is difficult or almost impossible to predict the future, one scenario that is looming is that the conflict will escalate into a protracted war. If it takes longer than expected to protect Ukrainian cities, whose defenders are fighting from street to street, this may be the case. This suggests that the impact on both the main actors and countries that have nothing to do with the conflict, such as South Africa, will be long-lasting.

As noted, South Africa is not immune to developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We’ve seen the price of crude oil rise to $100 a dollar amid concerns over Western trade and other sanctions against Russia, the world’s top oil exporter, according to the International Energy Agency.

Crude oil prices on the world market will be higher for South African drivers, taxi operators and those moving goods. Taxi operators simply pass on the extra fuel costs to commuters, while retailers, too, are asked to take on extra cash themselves to get their goods to their stores.

Before the war, oil prices had been rising for six months. If recent increases continue, the World Bank estimates that South Africa and other oil importers will lose one percentage point to GDP growth. Before the conflict, the country’s economy was expected to grow by 2% annually in 2022 and 2023.

Russia and Ukraine, former members of the now-defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, are major producers of wheat and other grains. The two countries together account for 30 percent of world trade in wheat. With Ukraine’s ports closed and much of Russia’s grain supply frozen by Western sanctions, tightening supplies are feared to cause problems for importing countries. The country imports 40% of its wheat needs, and in the past a third came from Russia and Ukraine.

Although South Africa’s Agribusiness Council says it does not believe the country will face a shortage of flour wheat, international prices for wheat, the main ingredient for making bread – the country’s staple food – have risen. Limited supplies. In early March, wheat for sale in Chicago (international level) increased more than 50% after the Russian invasion. This ultimately reflects the price of wheat in South Africa and the price South Africans pay when they buy bread.

Due to the war, the sowing process of this year’s spring wheat, barley and corn crops in the two countries will not be disrupted. This indicates that the global shortage of these grains will persist for some time.

The guns may not be ringing on our shores, but South Africans from all walks of life are feeling the effects of the war between Russia and Ukraine.


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