- The two leaders said what Ukraine seeks is a true friendship with Africa.
- They said this friendship must be mutually beneficial to all.
The Ukrainian government has upscaled its efforts in seeking cooperation with African countries despite the country being at war, following the full-scale invasion by Russia since February 22, 2022.
Speaking during a meeting with journalists from 10 African countries in Kyiv, the two leaders said what Ukraine seeks is a true friendship with Africa. They said this friendship must be mutually beneficial to all.
“Our cooperation with any other country should be a win-win in culture, economy and personal conduct that will not damage your rights and freedoms. We'll certainly respect any nation that respects us,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
According to him, Africa is a continent that resonates well with the war in Russia, describing it as a fight against the colonialist ambitions of Russia.
“We work as free people and we are very much interested in strategic partnership between us and any African nation and not generally the African Union. These relations should be based upon mutual respect and respect for the territorial integrity of the nations. Respect to sovereignty, language and culture.
“We can’t force anyone to be our friend, we don’t want to generate fakes... It cannot be enforced upon anyone we are different from Russia.”
He noted that despite not being as powerful in the information space as Russia is, Ukraine will not brainwash Africans with disinformation the way Russia has been doing because he believes that any relations should be purely based on truth and not lies.
The Ukrainian President noted that his country has already sent political signals to African countries and they are in the process of opening 10 embassies in the African continent. Ukraine has 11 operational embassies in Africa and is seeking to have more.
Zelensky noted that this has not been an easy step politically and financially but they will continue with the plan to increase their presence in Africa.
“I'd be happy to have a meeting with the African Union or African countries and frankly speaking I don’t mind the format of such a meeting. The purpose is important and that is to make maximum effort to achieve stability in the world and peace on our soil,” he added.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal insisted that Ukraine will always remain a reliable partner to African states.
Shmyhal pointed out that Ukraine and Africa have the same interests and that they will put their best foot forward to ensure there is engagement for higher level cooperation.
He said the new embassies that will set up in the coming days will be done at the cost of about US$ 25 million (Sh3.8 billion).
“We see a very massive reloading of relations between Ukraine and the African continent and we plan in the near future to open our embassies in Rwanda, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Botswana, Mauritania, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon," he said.
“We stand as responsible partners in all our relationships... we hope all African countries see that Ukraine stands as their reliable partner. This is a very serious intention of ours.”
The Ukrainian PM added that there are also plans underway to establish a Ukraine-Africa Trade Chamber.
Shmyhal further noted that their administration has accelerated political dialogue and inter-sectoral trade relations to effectively achieve this.
He, however, noted that this has also not come without its challenges, the biggest being the aggressive war ragged by Russia on Ukraine.