Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and impacts in the MENA region

This report was prepared before Russia’s large scale aggression against the Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is important to add a preliminary analysis on the impact the war will have in the MENA region1.

While the war is relatively distant from the region’s borders, MENA countries are expected to experience a significant economic impact as the conflict disrupts the region’s supply chains for food imports, on which most MENA countries depend, and alters global energy prices (Figure 1).

Fuel imports. As Russia is one of the largest producers and exporters of hydrocarbons, production and supply disruptions, as well as the sanctions imposed on Russia, have major effects on oil, gas and fuel prices. These have already seen a significant increase since 2021, after an initial decrease at the beginning of the pandemic.

The search for alternatives to Russian sources of hydrocarbons could benefit MENA producers in the medium to long term. Replacing Russia’s oil and gas exports to Europe would require both addressing investments to boost local production and building new intra-regional infrastructures, in particular for the more complex logistics for gas, which cannot possibly be achieved in the short-term. Sustained high oil and gas prices may also contribute to inflation and/or stressed public budgets through increased energy subsidies. According to the IEA, in 2020 Algeria’s average energy subsidisation rate was 52%, representing USD 191 per capita and 5.8% of GDP; and Egypt’s average energy subsidisation rate was 29%, representing USD 77 per capita and 2.2% of GDP. For oil importing MENA countries, high energy prices will have substantial impacts in fiscal budgets, trade balances and hard currency reserves, contributing to economic and social instability.

Food imports. MENA countries imported in 2020 over 30 billion USD on agricultural products and food. This represented 22% of the region’s total imports of goods and remained the most relevant category in the import basket. Russia and Ukraine are major producers of staple foods (cereals) around the world, accounting for around 30% of the world’s wheat exports and 14 % of maize exports, as well as more than 50% of sunflower seed oil. Russia (and Belarus, which is also being subject to sanctions) are also major producers of fertilisers.

Many MENA countries are particularly reliant on agricultural imports from Russia and Ukraine. For example, Lebanon imports 60% of its wheat from Ukraine, and Egypt imports nearly 85% from Russia and Ukraine, Tunisia over 47% from the two countries, with a high very reliance on Ukraine, Morocco imports nearly a quarter and Jordan imports over 34% from these countries (Figure 2).

The MENA region has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the world. Given the dependency on food imports, the war in Ukraine is likely to increase food insecurity in the region. The number of food insecure people inthe MENA countries has steadily increased during the first 3 months of the war, from 26 million in February to 28.3 in May 20222.

Migration. Lastly, possible effects also concern movements of people from MENA to the Northern shore of the Mediterranean. Important flows of Ukrainian refugees are currently being relocated across Europe. In the near future, this could have an impact on the opportunities to work and study in European countries for people of other geographical areas.


← 1. MENA region or MENA countries refer to the group of countries that are members of the Union for the Mediterranean. These countries are: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. Where the term “broad MENA region” is used, it refers to the group of MENA countries that include UfM and non-UfM members.

← 2. Source: WFP HungerMapLIVE. Includes data from two sources: (1) WFP’s continuous, near real-time monitoring systems, which remotely collect thousands of data daily through live calls conducted by call centres around the world; and (2) machine learning-based predictive models.

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