The United States is hoping for “a strong African response” to Russian aggression and plans to help mitigate the economic effects of the Ukraine conflict on the continent, US diplomats have said.
“We look for a strong African response to Russian aggression and welcome the opportunity to partner with Senegal and other Africans on both the response to Russia’s aggression but also to address the implications of it globally,” US ambassador to the African Union Jessica Lapenn told journalists in Dakar.
Lapenn and Akunna Cook, an official in the US State Department’s African Affairs Bureau were in Senegal for consultation, including with President Macky Sall, who currently holds the African Union’s rotating presidency.
Their visit, which they described as a follow-up to that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November, comes at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dividing African nations.
Senegal, which has strong relations with the West, surprised many by abstaining in a March 2 United Nations General Assembly vote on demanding a Russian ceasefire in Ukraine.
But the West African state also voted in favour of a second UN resolution on March 24, demanding that Russia stop the war immediately.
Nearly half of all African countries abstained or did not vote at all in both votes.
Lapenn preferred to welcome the statement issued by the African Union on February 24, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion, which called on Russia to “respect international law, the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Ukraine”.
The AU statement stopped short of condemning the Russian intervention.
Cook said it was important to recognise “that Africa is very much affected by the Russian invasion, by Ukraine, both because of the economic impact which we are seeing here and across the continent in terms of rising commodities and fuel prices and also because of the threat to territorial integrity”.
Senegal imports 57 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by three percent “because of the subsidies that will be needed to meet this demand”, she added, calling it a “significant challenge”.
The US is looking at a series of options to lessen the economic effects, both with the World Bank and IMF and on a bilateral level, said Cook.