DAKAR (AFP) – Senegalese President and African Union Chair Macky Sall strode into a meeting and shook a smiling Vladimir Putin’s hand before taking a seat next to him to discuss the war in Ukraine.
In a notable reversal of typical roles, Sall led an African delegation to Russia to hold talks with the Russian president over the European war. The apparently cosy scene – which took place in the southwestern city Sochi on the 100th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – marked a significant step forward in Sall’s efforts to boost Africa’s global political standing.
“A large part of humanity is very attentive to what is happening” in Ukraine, Sall said, raising the need to free up cereal and fertiliser stocks for export.
“I came to see you to ask that you be aware that our countries, though they are far from the theatre [of war], are the victims of this crisis on an economic level,” he said. Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine and a barrage of international sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of fertiliser, wheat and other commodities from both countries.
Cereal prices in Africa, the world’s poorest continent, have surged, sharpening the impact of conflict and climate change and sparking fears of social unrest.
Four months into Sall’s one-year term as AU chair, the diplomatic mission to Russia is just one of several ambitious campaigns the Senegalese leader has launched on the world stage.