By John Ikani
Senegalese President and African Union (AU) Chair Macky Sall on Thursday urged Ukraine to demine waters around its Odesa port to ease much needed grain exports from the war-torn country.
Mr Sall made the call in an interview with French media outlets, RFI and France 24.
The AU head said that without the resumption of exports, Africa – which is highly dependent on Ukrainian and Russian grain imports and fertilisers – “will be in a very serious famine situation that could destabilise the continent”.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted grain deliveries from the two countries, fueling fears of hunger around the world.
Russia and Ukraine account for 29% of global wheat supplies.
But grain remains stuck in Ukraine’s ports because of a Russian blockade and Ukrainian mines, while Western sanctions on Moscow have disrupted exports from Russia.
Mr. Sall added that he had received assurances from President Vladimir Putin that Russia would not attack Odessa.
Mr Sall is currently in France, where he is on Friday expected to ask his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to push for the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The AU chair is expected to canvass for the reversal of Russia’s exclusion from the global SWIFT bank messaging system.
“Since our banks are mostly linked to European banks, they cannot pay as they used to for Russian products,” the AU chair explained.