ROME: Africa will have “a place of honor” on the agenda of Italy’s G7 presidency in 2024, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged on Monday.
At the Italy-Africa Summit in Rome, Meloni presented the government’s Mattei Plan, which aims to transform Italy into an energy hub and stop migrants reaching the country from North Africa. The plan is named after Enrico Mattei, founder of Italy’s state-owned energy giant Eni.
The proposed strategic partnership between Italy and African countries aims to address the root causes of irregular migration and turn Italy into a hub for energy supplies from Africa to Europe as the latter tries to reduce its dependency on Russian oil and gas after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The plan aims to position Italy as “a bridge between Africa and Europe, funneling energy north while exchanging investment in the south for deals aimed at curbing migrant departures across the Mediterranean Sea,” Giulio Tremonti, president of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News.
Initial funding of the plan will be of €5.5 billion ($5.9 billion). Some of it will be loans, with investments focused on energy, agriculture, water, health and education in African countries.
Twenty-five African leaders and top representatives of the EU, including EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Speaker of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, attended the summit, which was held in the Plenary Hall of the Italian Senate in the presence of Italian entrepreneurs and lawmakers.
At the event, which was attended by Arab News, Meloni said Italy is making a “precise foreign policy choice, which will lead to giving Africa a place of honor on the agenda of our G7 presidency.”
She added: “We’re aware of how interconnected the destiny of our continents is, and … it’s possible to imagine and write a new chapter in our relations involving cooperation between equals that’s a long way removed from any predatory temptation and charitable approach.”
Of the plan’s €5.5 billion budget, Meloni said “about €3 billion will come from the Italian climate fund and €2.5 billion from the development cooperation fund.”
Pilot projects contemplated under the plan include the creation of a vocational training center on renewable energy in Morocco, education projects in Tunisia, and projects giving greater access to healthcare in Ivory Coast.
Tunisia and Ivory Coast were respectively the second and third most common country of origin of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy by sea in 2023.
“Sharing is one of the cardinal principles of the Mattei Plan, and the work of this summit will be decisive in enriching the path,” said Meloni, adding that projects are also foreseen in Algeria and Egypt, among other countries.
Von der Leyen said the Mattei Plan “is an important contribution to this new phase of our partnership with Africa, and complements our European Global Gateway” project that aims to mobilize €150 billion in funding to support green and digital transitions in Africa.
“The interests and destinies of Africa and Europe are aligned more than ever before,” she added, pointing to clean energy, the fight against the climate crisis, employment, and preventing loss of life along migration routes by addressing the root causes of migration and combating people smugglers.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the summit “intends to strengthen a dialogue between equals in order to look together at the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
He added: “We live in a context of three wars, in which even the situation in the Red Sea has strategic and economic repercussions on African countries as well as for us.”
For this reason, he said, the summit has “strong strategic value,” reiterating that Italy’s G7 presidency “intends to be a factor of stability and partnership with Africa.”