Why African sentiment is favouring Ukraine over Russia

Presidents Zelensky of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin of Russia

By Agencies

Johannesburg (20 June 2023): Ahead of the African Peace Initiative visit to Kyiv and Moscow, the upcoming Russia/Africa meetings in St. Petersburg and the BRICS Summit in South Africa in August, international research company Ipsos polled African citizens on their attitudes towards Russia, Ukraine and the controversial position on the war taken by some African governments. 

A majority felt that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was against the principles of international law, that Russian forces should withdraw from Ukraine and that Russia was guilty of committing war crimes in Ukraine. 

These were the most important findings in a random study among individuals 18-years-old and older, who expressed an interest in news and politics in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia.  

In conducting the polling, several statements were read out to each respondent, and they then had to indicate whether they strongly disagreed, disagreed, neither disagreed not agreed, agreed, or strongly agreed with each of the statements.  

A minority agreed with the statements looking at the war from the Russian point of view – and in none of the six countries did a majority choose to agree with any of the three statements.  However, South Africans were split down the middle in virtually equal proportions regarding all three opinions.

Africans expressed strong feelings that their continent should stay nonaligned or neutral in this conflict and Kenyans, especially, felt that Africa should not take sides in the war.  A smaller proportion of Nigerians, however, thought quite strongly that Africa could not afford to remain neutral in the war and should support Ukraine. 

Large majorities agreed that the war was not in Africa’s best interest, as it had detrimental effects on food supply and energy costs at home. Large majorities also agreed that “having lived through colonialism, conflict and forced occupations, we should not support any country in their attempts to illegally annex parts of another country without consequences”.  However, Africans are not immune to regretting the devastation of war and they feel that both Russians and Ukrainians are war victims.

Most Africans took a neutral stance when asked about whether their own government should support Russia or Ukraine. Majorities maintained that the ideal outcome would be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. It is important to observe that larger proportions in all seven countries thought support for Ukraine rather than for Russia was in the best interest of their countries.

Finally asked to make a personal choice there was definitely little ambiguity, and a majority in both  Kenya and South Africa supported Ukraine. Substantial proportions in the other countries followed suit.

The study has been compiled by Ipsos, one of the largest market research companies in the world, polled Africans on the ongoing Russia/Ukraine war and their attitude to it

About the study

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  • This study was completed on CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing).
  • Random lists of mobile telephone numbers were drawn, using relevant prefixes and the number of digits used in each country. The computer chose the numbers to be phoned from these lists randomly.
  • Trained and experienced CATI interviewers completed all interviews.
  • The number of interviews conducted was 1,000 in each South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria and 500 each in Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia.
  • All respondents had to be at least 18 years of age.
  • Interviews were conducted from May 31 to June 16, 2023.

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