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Second Russia–Africa Summit
The Second Summit Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum will take place in St. Petersburg from July 27-28.The First Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum was held in the Russian resort city of Sochi in October 2019.

'We Have to Help People': Top BRICS Alliance Official Weighs in on Africa Food Security

© Sputnik . Alexander Galperin / Go to the mediabankLarisa Zelentsova, President of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects, gives an interview to Sputnik on the sidelines of the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit and Economic and Humanitarian Forum on Friday, July 28, 2023.
Larisa Zelentsova, President of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects, gives an interview to Sputnik on the sidelines of the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit and Economic and Humanitarian Forum on Friday, July 28, 2023. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 30.07.2023
Earlier this week, Russian and African leaders and senior officials met in St. Petersburg for the second Russia–Africa Summit. The top-level dignitaries discussed areas of mutual interest, including ensuring food security on the African continent in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The Russian government has plans to address the issue of ensuring food security in Africa, but NGOs and businesses also have their own ways of contributing to Africa's food security, Larisa Zelentsova, President of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects, told Sputnik Africa in an exclusive interview.
Zelentsova added that the Alliance, a public organization that promotes civic initiatives, including "people's diplomacy," and supports various projects ranging from culture to aerospace and digital innovation, is currently exploring alternative ways to deliver Russian grain to countries of the continent.
The Alliance chair acknowledged that at the Second Russia-Africa Summit, held in St. Petersburg on July 27-28, both the Russian side and African delegates reiterated the need to ensure food security in Africa. Zelentsova outlined the government's plan to address the issue but stressed that businesses also play a crucial role.
She explained that by facilitating contacts and ties, the Alliance is helping Russia's private sector provide essential food supplies to Africa.

"And by the way, we also send humanitarian help. And now we started from the western parts of Africa. Now, we also continue to the central parts, it's another thing," Zelentsova added.

She emphasized the importance of addressing logistical challenges and finding alternative ways to ensure food supplies, rather than relying solely on government efforts.
"I think that now there is a necessity to solve the problems of logistics, it's also possible to solve them. And there are some different ways, not only governmental. At the government level, it's sometimes difficult, but we are trying to find and we have already found the ways how to supply with foodstuffs," Zelentsova said.
The discussion further delved into the supply of Russian grain and fertilizer to Africa, particularly in light of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its suspension due to unfulfilled obligations.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, commonly known as the Grain Deal, which provided for a humanitarian corridor to export Ukrainian grain to countries in need amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, was suspended in mid-July. After several extensions, Moscow finally suspended its participation in the deal due to non-compliance with Russia's terms of the agreement.
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Although Zelentsova explained that the issue is largely political, she expressed confidence in finding new ways to supply Russian grain and fertilizer to African countries. These opportunities, she noted, are based on human relations and contacts.
The head of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects emphasized the importance of personal interactions, pointing out that at the Russia–Africa Summit, meetings with officials from fertilizer companies spawned incipient agreements and future contacts.
"It is not a difficult deal, believe me. Again, it's just a question of contacts and how to combine all the possibilities. And it is possible. We are not speaking about politics. We have to help people," Zelentsova said, emphasizing that political issues remain separate.
Zelentsova expressed her satisfaction with the outcome of the Russia–Africa Summit. She highlighted her organization's engagement with Burkina Faso and its commitment to fostering collaboration in various sectors.
The Russian official praised Burkina Faso's young and determined interim president, Ibrahim Traore, who she said has emerged as a "hero" in the eyes of his people.

"First of all, the people, the president, he's so young, but he's already so mighty and persistent, and he's just a hero in some way," she stressed. "The people in Burkina want to do [something], want to move forward, [want] to move to the future they have always dreamed of."

The President of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects also applauded the exemplary work of Russian diplomats in Burkina Faso.
It's worth mentioning that the Russian Embassy in Burkina Faso was closed in 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Moscow is currently represented in Ouagadougou by its embassy in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced during a meeting with Burkinabe leader Ibrahim Traore that Moscow plans to reopen its embassy in Ouagadougou to help cultivate cooperation between the two countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso attend a meeting at the Constantine (Konstantinovsky) Palace in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 29, 2023. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 29.07.2023
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Zelentsova said the diplomatic mission will serve as the face of Russia and play an important role in fostering friendship and close relations with the Burkinabe government and people. She recalled attending a reception party held by Russian diplomats in Burkina Faso in mid-June, which demonstrated the strong ties between the Russia and Africa.

"So it's [the] very example how we show that Russia is here. Russia hasn't gone away from Africa. It's here and it is with Africans. And they always ask, why are you here, some people in Africa. Yesterday, by the way, some people ask[ed] me, and what is the profit for Russia to do with Africa? I told [them] that we are friends and friends must help each other. That's why we are here."

Larisa Zelentsova
President of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects
Addressing questions on cooperation between her NGO and African countries, Zelentsova mentioned the scheduled meetings with the President of Burkina Faso and his delegation, which centered on essential matters and strengthening collaboration.
In addition, Zelentsova unveiled a proposal to invite approximately 50 students from Burkina Faso to one of the universities in Russia's Volga River region. This educational exchange program underscores the devotion of the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects to nurturing human capital development and promoting mutual growth between Russia and Africa.

"And then we also shall meet with the president of the Central African Republic because we want to clarify some questions in order to continue our way and cooperation," she added, noting that an agreement concerning 5G communication and television affairs will be signed, signifying progress in these key fields.

The Russian official concluded by reaffirming the organization's commitment to advancing cooperation with Africa in all possible directions by promoting people-to-people diplomacy and implementing various projects.