Can Africa survive Western sanctions?

Africa is the continent with the most countries in the world, the southern continent has over 54 nations and territories with over a billion people in them. Africa doubles as the continent with the most natural resources and has impacted global raw material trade through the provision of resources and raw materials to the West and East. 

Nonetheless, despite these successes, Africa has had its fair share of troubles, from increasing poverty to unemployment and most recently terrorism. Africa has tried to find an impact that can ultimately increase its economy and reduce its reliance on Western or Eastern economic powers. These shortfalls from Africa have exposed the continent to varying forms of exploitation, and the difficulty of deciding international politics between the East and the West or on certain issues of cultural, political and social acceptance by Africans. 

This article offers insight as to whether African countries can survive Western sanctions.

Understanding western sanctions on Africa

Western sanctions have controlled the global economic and political scenes for a long time. Over the years countries from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, the European Union and a host of other Western nations have issued one form of sanction or the other to countries in different parts of the world.

In Africa, concerns have been made by most nations as well as experts over the impact Western sanctions may have on the continent if issued. There are increased fears that most, if not all countries on the African continent would not be fully equipped to survive a sanction from the West. The idea of Western sanctions has once again gained attention from many African nations with African countries declining to join with the West on issues relating to the LGBTQ community and the Russian-Ukrainian war. 

Over the years, western sanctions have been imposed on Africa for varying reasons, which include political differences, human rights violations, economic mismanagement, trade wars and others. An example for most African countries is exemplified in Robert Mugabe’s regime of Zimbabwe, which affected the overall trade impact as well as the entire economy of Zimbabwe, the resultant effect of the Western sanction on Zimbabwe today is a struggling economy, a gloomy trade growth, hyperinflation, unemployment, decline in foreign investment, and an almost valueless currency with Zimbabwe officially adopting the US Dollar as its official currency. Zimbabwe’s sanctions were placed in response to large human rights violations, electoral fraud, and economic mismanagement under Robert Mugabe’s administration.

The Russian-Ukrainian war

The Russian-Ukraine war began unofficially in February 2014 when Russia invaded the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Over time the war escalated into a full-blown conflict that lasted for over six years. One of the remote causes of the Russian-Ukrainian war was the decision of Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and possibly the European Union. Put simply, Ukraine had made attempts to adopt a pro-western form of ideology, which conflicts with Russia and is viewed as a threat by Russia to her sovereignty judging by the proximity Russia shares with the Ukrainian border.

The trend among African nations refusing to take sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has caused shocks among Western nations. Over the years, Africa has kept a neutral stand in political tussles of this nature with increased attention placed on its regional interests rather than the global conflict between the east and the west. This neutral stance by most African countries has led to the popular “non-alignment policy” on international conflicts and political debates such as the Russian-Ukrainian war. This adoption is based on the belief that Africa needs both the West and the East to step up its economic and social development for the best living standards for its citizens. 

Nonetheless, the West isn’t worried about the neutral stance that Africa has long adopted in international conflicts, the West is rather worried about the actions of some African countries seemingly taking a stand against the West. An example occurred when South Africa, a member of the BRICS, an organization to which it and Russia are both members, decided to invite Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, to the country and announced President Putin would be received and treated with the utmost respect. This invitation to Putin came in the heat of the Russian-Ukrainian war and after Putin had been declared wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to which South Africa is a member. 

LGBTQ rights in Africa

The rights of the LGBTQ community have raised concerns and have sparked increased debates from African and Western countries. Africa today is the only continent in the world where over half the countries have made same-sex relationships illegal, homosexuality in today’s Africa is criminalized in over 30 out of 54 countries, with some countries adopting the death penalty. Despite this anti-LGBTQ stance by most African nations, the West has been unrepentant in its fight and support for LGBTQ rights in Africa. 

One of such ways the West has fought against anti-LGBTQ laws in Africa is through the use of sanctions ranging from the withdrawal of grants and supports, rejecting travel visas from legislative members and other politicians, reducing trade imports from the affected countries and others. It is relevant to point out that African nations recognize varying diverse cultural practices, religion and societal norms, all issues, inclusive of LGBTQ rights, are viewed through this diversity. 

The most recent anti-LGBTQ legislation by an African country is the Ugandan anti-LGBTQ law signed in May 2023 by President Yoweri Museveni. The law seeks to criminalize persons who engage in aggravated homosexual conduct up to 14 years imprisonment. This law raised concerns about Western sanctions after the United States warned Uganda of “economic consequences” over the law. 

The possibility of Africa withstanding Western sanctions

Despite the challenges introduced by Western sanctions, African nations have proven strong in the battle against adversity by economic superpowers. Several African countries have today enacted economic reforms, diversified their economies, created regional trade connections and shifted their markets to other nations of the globe, particularly the global south and Asia.

In addition, regional integration initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) have shown the potential to boost infra-African trade and increased reliance on African-made products rather than those from Western nations. It is believed that African nations can lessen the impact of Western sanctions through regional trade.

Also, African countries have adopted new trade partners for economic investments and exports, these countries include China, Russia, India, Turkey, Brazil, Thailand and others. These new alliances open up increased opportunities for investment and commercial growth while reducing Africa’s reliance on Western nations.


With increased fear of Western sanctions, it is vital to recognize the resilience and adaptation demonstrated by many African nations. Diversification initiatives in Africa attempts at regional integration, and the formation of alternative alliances have offered possibilities for mitigating potential economic shocks.

Nonetheless, diplomatic channels and diplomacy are critical in dealing with potential clashes and avoiding the imposition of sanctions. African nations should communicate with Western powers to settle difficulties, clarify positions, and identify common ground. African countries should show their willingness to work constructively with Western partners by emphasizing their commitment to regional peace, good governance, and human rights.

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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