Rising prices lead to unrest in Africa – Politics

Rising prices lead to unrest in Africa - Politics

Luciana Kuboka is sitting in her restaurant in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, deep-frying small balls of dough in vegetable oil. Small children in school uniforms stand at the window, offer a few cents in coins and then get the cooked dough ball wrapped in newspaper. It’s their only lunch, says Kuboka. The only thing parents can afford. “Mama J” is what she called her restaurant a few years ago, a fairly spacious hut made of corrugated iron with around 15 seats.

A menu hangs on the wall with almost 20 dishes, most with ugali, a lump of cornmeal, along with vegetables, fish and meat. Every morning at seven o’clock, Luciana Kuboka and her husband start work in Nairobi’s slum Mathare, in the evening they close the shop at 10 p.m., in between they chop vegetables and fry the fish, they cook the cornmeal and cough because of the smoke from the charcoal grill .

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You can only endure a few minutes in the kitchen before the visitor’s eyes start to water. Luciana Kuboka and her husband have been living here for many years. But maybe not for long. “We’re just barely keeping our heads above water,” she says. “I’m not really making any money. I’m just moving on so as not to lose my customers.” The most expensive dish, the fried fish, costs 130 Kenyan shillings, just over one euro. She hasn’t raised the prices for years, although she has to pay more and more for her goods.

Everything became more expensive during the pandemic – then came the Ukraine war

Corona had already made everything more expensive, and then there was the Ukraine war. At the beginning of 2020, 20 liters of cooking oil cost around 20 euros, now Luciana Kuboka has to pay more than twice that, 45 euros. It cannot pass the price increases on to customers. “Many have lost their jobs and can hardly afford anything to eat,” she says. These are bitter times in the slums of Nairobi.

Africa: Luciana Kuboka, a restaurant owner in a Nairobi slum, has not raised prices in years.  In return, she herself has to pay more and more for her goods.

Luciana Kuboka, a restaurant owner in a Nairobi slum, hasn’t raised prices in years. In return, she herself has to pay more and more for her goods.

(Photo: private)

While Europe is still debating how hard the winter will be and how long warm showers should last, the consequences of the Ukraine war have already hit large parts of Africa with full force. First of all, the so important grain deliveries for many countries in East Africa failed to materialize, now prices are exploding everywhere.

In South Africa, petrol costs 56 percent more than a year ago. In Ghana, farmers have to pay 50 percent more for their fertilizer, the raw materials for which come from Russia. In Nigeria, bean prices have risen by a quarter. In Somalia Drinkable water costs four times as much as it did months ago, according to aid organizations. Here alone, 1.7 million children are malnourished. Help is also becoming more difficult for them because even the emergency rations for the aid organizations are becoming drastically more expensive.

International aid is slow to start

The French maker of the Plumpy Nut food bar, which the UN distributes, increased prices by 23 percent last year. Plumpy Nut is made largely of peanuts, powdered milk, vegetable oil, and sugar, all of which have become more expensive. The UN children’s fund Unicef ​​expects that the cost of the bar will increase by a further 16 percent in the coming months, which would mean that half a million fewer children can be supplied with the paste.

International aid for Africa has been slow to start so far. Some governments try to freeze the prices of various staple foods by decree or to subsidize traders. Often, however, the funds are simply not available. In Ghana, the central bank has raised the interest rate to 22 percent to counteract the inflation of 31.7 percent. This may work in the short term, but in the long term it can stifle economic growth.

The Ukraine war and the corona pandemic are not the only causes of rising prices, but they are exacerbating the problems in many economies – and threatening political stability in some countries.

In Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, demonstrators set up barricades on the streets and set tires on fire, and the police responded with tear gas. A few days ago, 21 civilians died in demonstrations against the rising cost of living in Sierra Leone. According to official figures, inflation in the West African country is almost 30 percent.

Yields may decrease due to less fertilization

President Julius Maada Bio announced an official investigation, but not to help people cope with their increasingly expensive everyday lives, he wanted to find the leaders of a “terrorist coup attempt”. Violent protests also broke out in Malawi, and 76 demonstrators were arrested. In South Africa and Uganda, unions called mass strikes.

Gasoline prices are now falling slightly in some regions, but it is unclear how the situation will develop. Grain production in Russia and the Ukraine will be less in the coming harvest season, experts assume that up to 50 percent less wheat could be harvested. Although some ships were able to leave Ukraine’s ports, many of them were only transporting animal feed. Agricultural yields may also fall in Africa itself. While most farmers in Ghana typically fully fertilize their fields by August, a survey conducted by African agricultural technology company Farmerline found that more than half of the 178 farmers surveyed did not fertilize their fields at all this year.

Luciana Kuboka in Nairobi does not expect prices to fall so quickly. She fears that she won’t be able to hold out much longer. Many of their customers no longer have money for fish or meat. At most for a thin soup made from boiled beef head.

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