Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appointed Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, and two other African leaders as Ambassadors of the Ukrainian government’s ‘Grain from Ukraine’ programme.
The move is in furtherance of efforts to curb the global food crisis as Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain producers and, together with Russia, exports nearly a third of the world’s wheat and barley.
A former Vice President of the World Bank, Ezekwesili is also the Senior Advisor at the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative; Founder of the School of Politics, Policy and Governance and President of Human Capital Africa.
The other two ambassadors of the initiative are the former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda; and the Regional Director for Central and West Africa Programmes at the National Democratic Institute, United States of America, Christopher Fomunyoh.
Banda is a committee member of the African Women Leaders Network, a board member of Tana Forum for Peace and Security in Africa, as well as Club de Madrid, the global organisation of former heads of state and government.
‘Grain from Ukraine’ is an initiative of the Ukrainian government to assist countries suffering from acute food crises as a result of the war with Russia.
In addition to interacting with other experts, globally, the African ambassadors for Grain from Ukraine also discussed the results of involving international donor partners in the implementation of the initiative, improving the mechanism for receiving funds from partners, food shipment and visits of Ukrainian delegations to Africa.
Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, had in a recent virtual meeting, disclosed that the three Africans were joining international experts and leaders to support the initiative.
According to him, since the launch of the initiative in November 2022, more than 30 donor countries have signed up. They include Qatar, Turkey, Japan, Norway, Korea, Canada and the USA. So far, participants have pledged nearly $200m.
“We see the prospect of expanding the project. To do this, we need reliable partners with knowledge and extensive connections,” said Yerimak.
At the meeting, last week, he introduced and welcomed Ezekwesili, Banda and Fomunyoh as the first set of African ambassadors of the initiative.
In her remarks, Ezekwesili noted that Ukraine’s active and effective initiatives to combat the food crisis were not only on the African continent but also around the world.
“We are talking about several millions of people around the world, who will receive this support. These people will suffer if they don’t have food on their table,” she said, adding that 62 million people in Africa suffer from food insecurity for one reason or another.
“This initiative should, therefore, support the continent’s longer-term policy measures for increasing investment and raising agricultural productivity. That is why we and the world really consider Ukraine as a country that, despite the war, is doing such important things to help ensure food security,” she added.