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‘We Were Cold And Starving’: Notes From The Ukraine War

Published 2 months ago
By Peace Hyde

Glimpses of the ongoing Ukraine war from the Africans who fled and those predicting a wider impact on the continent.

Dr Akintoye Akindele, the Nigeria-based Executive Chairman of Platform Capital, ushered in 2022 in
Kyiv, the capital and most populous city in Ukraine now dominating the news. His trip was the
culmination of months of negotiations with his Ukrainian partners to launch a new oil refinery in
Ghana, West Africa.

Little did they all know what was in store for the Eastern European country and its people.

“We worked on this deal for over nine months and even spent New Year in some of the towns that are
now being bombarded. Life happens! Our thoughts and prayers are with our partner and his family
and the entire world at large. This war and its undertones, from racism to greed, is a test for
humanity,” says Akindele on the ongoing Russian invasion and war on Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s one move has led to catastrophic consequences for not just Europe but Africa as well.
For businessmen like Akindele, it meant invoking the force majeure clause in his business contract;
something he never thought would happen to him in years of deal-making across Africa.

“In layman terms, it means unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a
contract or meeting its obligations under the agreement. Examples include natural disasters and war.

“While parties may not be able to control the occurrence of these unforeseen circumstances, they can
prepare a clear, fair and mutually beneficial action plan that will be triggered in a force majeure
scenario. This is what we are dealing with in the Ukrainian investment which was a major one for us
that we were targeting to close [in] February,” says Akindele.

Like him, many individuals who called Ukraine home, have exited or are doing so. The effects of the
Russian invasion continue to permeate globally.

For Ghana, the immediate response was to evacuate the over 1,000 Ghanaian students in the country
as soon as news emerged of the war.

Priscilla Adjar, a medical student at the Western Ukrainian National University, was one of those that
fled and recounts the horrors.

“I can only describe this experience as something from a movie. It was so terrifying and as I think
about it now, I am still shaking. We realized that there was a serious problem when our university told
us that we could all go home. Myself and a group of friends decided to make our way to the Ukrainian-
Polish border where we heard the Ghana government was arranging flights back home for us,” recalls

After hours of walking, they finally arrived at the border where they were asked to form queues.
“Initially there were several lines. There was one for the Ukrainians, one for the Indians and one for
the Africans. From the looks of things, it seemed like the Ukrainians or white people were receiving
preferential treatment to everybody else and were being fast-tracked and I wondered why we were all
not in the same line. Do our lives not matter also?” says Adjar.

Her experience echoes that of many foreign students of African descent in the country. The disparity
in reporting about the plight of Africans in Ukraine even made it to global headlines.
Among those escaping was also Amamchim Steve-Ajufo.

“I actually made a mistake and ventured into the wrong line and I was screamed and shouted at to
move back to where I belonged. We were cold and starving and we had to scoop snow on the ground
as drinking water because they wouldn’t offer us any water to drink. They gave first-class treatment to
the whites,” recalls Steve-Ajufo.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana took immediate action to arrange for flights to airlift
Ghanaian students caught in the looming crisis.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, European countries were offering free housing and accommodation to their
neighbors in Ukraine.

Some reiterate the disparity in the treatment of refugees.

“The government paying Brits £350 per month to house Ukraine refugees was never on offer for
refugees fleeing wars, persecution and danger in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Instead, boats are
turned and people deported,” says Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a lawyer and activist based in London.

There is also the issue of the wider impact of the Ukrainian war on Africa.

According to leading non-profit organization, Global Citizen, there is likely to be an increase in food
insecurity in Africa as a result of the war because Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of oil,
wheat and corn.

This has led the African Development Bank (AfDB) to launch a food production plan that will focus on
increasing the availability of wheat, maize, rice and soybeans on the continent.

According to Reuters, the development institution plans to produce 30 million tonnes of food and also
empower farmers with tech tools to help them scale rapidly to meet this demand. Similarly, the
International Monetary Fund is also reportedly committing to raising $1 billion to fund the initiative.

“The goal is to prevent a food crisis on the continent from the Russian invasion. We see the Ukraine
war as a time for Africa to step up and become self-sufficient and it is the goal of the AfDB to empower
small scale farmers through our initiative to fill this void that is being created,” notes AfDB President
Akinwumi Adesina.

Solomon Osei, an oil and gas entrepreneur, also sees the potential opportunities of the Ukrainian war
when it comes to the provision of gas.

“With Europe’s sanctions against Russia, there is an energy supply issue and we are trying to position
ourselves to take advantage of this. I think companies in this space in Africa can be positioned to help
bridge that supply gap. We just need the government to back us,” says Osei.

With Africa’s leading oil and gas producers like Algeria, Nigeria and Angola, Africa could now become
integral to Europe’s energy security as sanctions against Russia still hold.

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