heitzig1EBRAHIM HAMIDAFP via Getty Imagesaid to africa ukraine EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images

Aid to Ukraine Should Not Come at Africa’s Expense

As governments and other donors accelerate much-needed aid to Ukraine, they should not simultaneously scale back development-assistance programs for Africa. Doing so would increase poverty, exacerbate food shortages, and undermine democracy on the continent.

WASHINGTON, DC – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has generated enormous costs. Most have been borne by brave Ukrainian citizens and the unfortunate Russian soldiers ordered to fight. But the whole world has experienced significant collateral damage: further spikes in energy costs and food prices, and a possible global recession.

Nowhere has that indirect damage been greater than for those already on the brink of poverty, particularly in Africa. The food price index produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations hit a record high in March, and fertilizer prices also have surged. Efforts by national policymakers to improve domestic food security, such as India’s recent ban on wheat exports, have made matters worse. The war’s ripple effects threaten to damage not only near-term production but also future harvests after the fighting in Ukraine ceases. Millions more Africans could thus soon face poverty, hunger, or both.

But one potential negative consequence of the conflict can and must be contained: the temptation of rich-country policymakers to redirect development assistance from Africa to Ukraine. This happened in 2014, when Russia’s annexation of Crimea diverted resources away from Africa – even though the region was on the verge of a commodity price-driven recession.

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