Steppes In Figures #5: Ukraine and the world

One of the 27 Ukrainian laborers marooned in Baghdad after a construction project was delayed lifting weights and waiting.  Re-branding of their Post-Soviet nation  proves to be a matter of lifting heavy weights  and doing it more often than not to exercise  (Photo. Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times )

updated on Dec 14, 2011

Steppes in Sync‘s ears were arrested by a native tune blasting out of a TV in Harare’s Jameson Hotel the other day. “Switch on Ukraine!” the CNN-broadcast message was encouraging every two minutes. We already discussed how fruitless switching Ukraine on still could be.

However, the nation’s leadership does not stop here and these days came up with another soft power  trick for Ukraine. President Viktor Yanukovych will go to the Vatican to present an Ukrainian gift to the Catholic world – a Christmas tree from the Carpathian Mountains in Zakarpattia region to be placed at Saint Peter’s Square.

In this post we browsed through the stories from Ukraine’s leading English-language newspaper Kyiv Post for you. Here is our 2010 survey of how deeply involved Ukraine is with other Steppes. Soft power initiatives should do their thing, as long as the reality meets the image so deliberately (and costly) projected onto the world.

Ukraine’s ties with African nations remain superficial

In 2010, there was a 7,000-member African community in Ukraine. Even for pragmatic Ukrainian businessmen, the continent doesn’t seem to be on their map. Bilateral trade with Africa topped only US $3 billion in 2009 and investment ties are not particularly deep. The United Nations has singled out Ukraine as being a major arms supplier for Africa.

Ukraine lacks its journalists in Africa and gets the image mostly through Western media.

“Some African students graduating from Ukrainian universities are embarrassed to return home,” according to Issa Sadio Diallo, leader of the Guinean community. “They were persuaded by agents that Ukraine is a European country with employment possibilities for students. Some end up with no money for the flight home.”

Jarreth Merz discusses his film with Alexander Wittwer, Swiss Ambassador to Zimbabwe, during 2011 ZIFF in Harare. One of Merz’s Nigerian brothers studies medicine in Ukraine .

A by-story on this comes from our founder Andy Kozlov, who attended a screening of Jarreth Merz‘s Glorious Exit, part of the program of this year’s Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF). Jarreth is known for his portrayal of Simon of Cyrene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and his recurring role as Charles Baruani in ER. As it happens, One of film’s heroes (and one of Jarreth’s Nigeria-born brothers) studies medicine in Ukraine. He does not consider it an European country and thinks of a plan to eventually move further west.

But some of the Ukrainian Africans settle down to success, like the Ghanaian hero of Kramatorsk. A Global Intersection, a documentary about recent globalization trends in Eastern Ukraine that we featured previously.

Ukraine has attracted a mere $35 billion in foreign investment since independence (2009 figure), while global mergers & acquisitions acitivity has reached US $1.5 trillion in the first half of 2011 itself, a 22% increase from last year levels.

Again from a 2009 article: the leading individual foreign direct investment in Ukraine’s all-important metal sector came from the $4.8 billion re-sale of the former Kryvorizhstal steel mill in Kryviy Rih, the nation’s largest steelmaker, to ArcelorMittal Steel in 2005.

The foreign sovereign debt of Ukraine reached $19 billion by the end of June – about 30% of GDP, half of the debt-to-GDP ratio at which default on loan obligations is considered likely for developed economies. That is 19 % of the nation’s overall debt of roughly $100 billion on June, 30th  2009, according to Dragon Capital, a Kyiv-based investment house. The other parts of the debt are corporate-sector debt ($46 billion) and bank-sector debt ($35 billion).

Since Ukraine gained independence, the number of children in the nation decreased by 5 million Ukraine’s 8.2 million kids remain tough, according to Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Nina Karpacheva interviewed in 2009. “There are five to seven million Ukrainians working aboard,” Karpacheva said. 27 of them found themselves stranded in Iraq’s capital Baghdad not so long time ago.

Ukraine-Nigeria In a 2010 interview with Nigerian Ambassador Ibrahim Pada Kasai we could learn that the bilateral trade turnover between the two nations was some $400 million before the crisis. The Nigerian community in Ukraine counts 4,000. Being an agricultural country, Nigeria gets most of its fertilizers from Ukraine. Ukraine also supplies metallurgical products, while Nigeria exports pharmaceutical raw materials to Ukraine. In potential, the main areas of mutual interest would be agriculture, machinery, construction and tourism.

Ukraine-South Africa Bilateral trade was $375 million in 2008. South African community is probably one of the smallest in Ukraine– some 100 people and only one student on an exchange program. Mostly these are single entrepreneurs involved in middle-sized and small businesses.  

Ukraine-Japan There are only 200 Japanese nationals living in Ukraine, according to the Japanese Embassy. 28 registered Japanese companies in Ukraine.

Turnover: 2008 – $2.9 billion; 2009 – $630.7 million

Exports from Japan to Ukraine: 2008 – $2.7 billion; 2009 – $519.5 million

Exports from Ukraine to Japan: 2008 – $116 million; 2009 – 111.2 million

Major Japanese exports to Ukraine – vehicles, machines, equipment and electronics. New areas of cooperation: energy saving and environmentally-clean technologies.

Major Japanese imports from Ukraine – aluminum, ferrous and non-precious metals, chemicals and dairy products.

Japanese investment in Ukraine 1997-2008: $75 million

Number of registered Japanese nationals in Ukraine, 2009: 196 (50 – embassy and family; 60 businessmen; 26 researchers and students, with many of them majoring in art studies, ballet, etc)

Number of registered Japanese companies: 28

Japanese aid to Ukraine since 1992: grants – $152.2 million; loans – $420 million.

Major joint projects:
Chornobyl-related projects consisting of humanitarian aid, scientific research and general assistance, including medical equipment and care in the affected area, as well as assistance for schools;
Loan worth $170 million in 2005 for the development of the Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport;
Within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan bought 30 million tons of emission gas quotas from Ukraine through 2009-2010.

Ukraine-China 15,000 Chinese people in Ukraine. The students among them major in technology and linguistics. See our feature for an interview with a Chinese higher education executive in Eastern Ukraine.

Bilateral Trade Turnover: 2009- $5.7 billion

Export from China to Ukraine: 2009 – $3.6 billion

Import from Ukraine to China: 2009 – $2.17 billion

China’s investment into Ukrainian economy: $15.9 million

Major commodities exported from China to Ukraine: textile products, automobiles, equipment and mechanisms, footwear, headwear, haberdashery.

Major commodities exported from Ukraine to China: mineral ores, semiprecious stones, equipment and mechanisms (nuclear reactors, boilers, etc).

Lybidska metro station market in Ukraine’s capital city is known as Kyiv Chinatown.

Ukraine-United Kingdom Number of UK nationals in Ukraine: 500

Number of UK companies in Ukraine: 100

Major items imported from UK to Ukraine: manufactured goods, vehicles, professional instruments, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, chemicals and specialized industrial machinery.

Major items exported from Ukraine to UK: iron and steel, vegetable fats and oils, animal feed, cereal, clothing, transport equipment and petroleum products.

Bilateral trade 2009: $1 billion

Imports to Ukraine 2009: $825.5 million, down 5 percent

Exports from Ukraine 2009: $227 million

Ukraine-Turkey Bilateral trade turnover 2009: $4 billion.

Exports from Turkey to Ukraine: $1 billion.

Exports from Ukraine to Turkey: $3 billion.

Major commodities exported from Turkey to Ukraine: fruits and vegetables, mineral fuels and oils, nuclear reactors, boilers, knitted apparel, products of iron and steel, automotive products, electrical appliances.

Major commodities exported from Ukraine to Turkey: iron and steel, mineral fuels and oils, animal and plant oils, fertilizers.

Foreign direct investment in Ukraine: $142.9 million.

Number of Turkish nationals in Ukraine: 10,000 registered; 20,000 estimated.

Number of Turkish companies in Ukraine: about 500 environmental and energy-saving projects; and Nearly a $150 million loan to the Industrial Union of Donbass for purchasing energy-saving power generation equipment produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a Japanese company.

Ukraine-India 3,500 Indians in Ukraine.

Even in crisis-struck 2009, India-Ukraine bilateral trade reached $1.5 billion. “Before Western investors entered the Ukrainian market, Indian businessmen were already here. These were the former students of Ukrainian universities, who learned the market, had local contacts, knew the language and benefited from two waves of privatization,” according to Sanjay Rajhans, a professor of Hindi language at Kyiv National Shevchenko University.

Vishal Chandra, head of Tulib Lab Private Ltd pharmaceutical company in Ukraine, who had worked in the country for five years, managed to get a year-long multi-entry business visa. His spouse, also legally employed in Ukraine and two children, attending school in Kyiv, were not as fortunate. “My family got only a six-month single entry visa, even though they had obtained year-long multi-entry visas before. Rules are constantly changing. There is no clarity, neither in the foreign registration office (OVIR), nor in embassy procedures,” Chandra added.

Ukraine is a transit point for many Asian illegal immigrants trying to get to Europe and elsewhere. That’s part of the reason why visa policies for Indian nationals in Ukraine are rather strict, according to Ihor Gemenny of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs interviewed by Kyiv Post in 2010.

In 2009, military-technical cooperation took a major step forward with a $400 million contract for the repair of 105 Indian aircraft and a $109 million contract for supllying of engines by Ukraine to India. Ukraine-Indian bonds are also very strong in the space sector, information technology and biotechnology, with many connections formed in Soviet times.

Ukraine- USA Foreign direct investment from U.S. to Ukraine: $1.4 billion

Percent of U.S foreign direct investment into Ukraine as a percentage of nation’s total: 3.5 percent

Companies with U.S. capital on the Ukrainian market: 1,545.

Major areas of involvement: agriculture, trade and financial sector.

U.S. aid to Ukraine: more than $3 billion since 1992. The United States remains the largest foreign technical assistance donor to Ukraine; 2010 aid figure: $123 million

Bilateral trade: 2009 – $1.5 billion; 2008 – $4.75 billion

Bilateral trade with U.S. as a share of Ukraine’s overall foreign trade: 2009 – 1.8 percent; 2008 – 3.1 percent.

Two suggestions from Steppes in Sync:

  1. Ukrainian government should make sure Ukrainian citizens living abroad get more attention from the embassies in their countries of residence.
  2. Although some Ukrainians already started discovering joys of volunteering abroad on an individual basis, Ukraine’s performance on the latest World Giving Index shows that there is room for improvement. The nation needs to create a global volunteer program for Ukrainians to provide them with broader international learning opportunities than the usual dish-washing summer sessions in the US. For inspiration, look at what World Friends Korea did to promote their nation brand. Or stop by a Peace Corps operation at home – everywhere from Slovjansk to Yaremche.
Valeriy Shyrokov, an elections logistics specialist, went to Liberia in 2005 and is now studying for a Ph.D. to advance his career (Photo courtesy


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