Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday in London, United Kingdom said the lingering crisis between Russia and Ukraine should be a wake-up call for African states to prioritise self-sufficiency in food production.
He also said digitisation remains Africa’s best opportunity to make considerable progress in the global scheme of things.
“The economic fallout of the war for us in Africa should be an introspective moment on the issue of self sufficiency in food production,” Osinbajo told a large audience comprising academics, scholars, researchers, faculty and students of the Africa Leadership Centre, King’s College London.
Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday titled ‘How Africa can prosper in an increasingly complex world, by Osinbajo.’
Speaking specifically on the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Osinbajo said apart from its consequences for international peace and security, the war has signalled a breakdown of the global order which emerged at the end of the Second World War adding that this is a source of concern to many African countries who now have to steer their way delicately between major powers.
However, the more immediate and consequential fallout of the war are the sharp hikes in the prices of food, especially wheat, sunflower oil, fuel and fertilizer.
He noted many African countries were heavily dependent on one or both of the warring parties for food and oil.
“When the conflict began in February 2022, the price of wheat increased by 67 per cent from December 2021. Oil prices similarly went through the roof. The international price of oil averaged $100 per barrel in 2022 as compared to about $70 per barrel in 2021,” the VP explained.
He said higher oil prices translated to higher prices for manufactured products as well since some of the key manufacturing countries are oil importers.
He said, “These price shocks and disruption of supply chains of various commodities across Africa led to high inflation at a time when most countries were struggling to overcome the economic and social fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic especially debt and foreign currency crises.
Thereafter, he commended the recent peace proposal by the President of Brazil saying “President Luiz Lula Da Silva of Brazil proposed a peace club probably led by China to seek ways of ending the crisis.
“I think that sort of thinking is the way to go. The world must find parties that can be trusted by both sides to intervene.”
Meanwhile, Osinbajo said Africa could change the course of its fortune for good by leveraging digitalisation.
He added, “I think there is a strong conviction that digitalisation offers the best opportunity of leap-frogging for Africa. Digital technologies are being deployed across Africa to provide solutions in agriculture, education, Fintech and healthcare delivery.
“It is also being deployed in logistics and transport and have the potential to be used for smart housing solutions and smart power grids.
“The story of mobile telephony which has provided the platform for the use of digital technologies in daily lives in Africa is one such example. Due to mobile telephony, Africa is ahead of other parts of the world in terms of Fintech and payments solutions.”
He observed that Africa accounts for about half of the world’s mobile money accounts.
“Similarly, more and more African countries are using AI-enabled surveillance technologies for facial recognition to monitor and respond to crime.
In the audience were the college’s Senior Vice President (Academics), Professor Rachel Mills, Vice President (International Engagement & Service), Professor Funmi Olonisakin, who moderated a question and answer session after the lecture, and a professor of African Studies based in the college, Professor Abiodun Alao.
Also accompanying the VP to the public lecture were senior government officials led by Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola.