Italy unveils 1st details of ambitious Africa plan

By Anadolu Agency

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Monday opened a much-awaited Italy-Africa summit aimed at unveiling concrete projects of her ambitious plan to reset the relationships between Rome and the African continent, curbing illegal migration flows and turning Italy into a hub of energy supplies from Africa to Europe.

Speaking at the Italian Senate in front of more than 20 African leaders and top representative of the European Union, Meloni started providing the first details of the so-called Mattei Plan, named after the founder of Italy’s oil and gas giant company ENI.

In her opening speech, she cited as examples pilot renewable energy projects from Morocco to Ethiopia and Kenya, adding that they could be replicated in all African countries that will express interest into these new forms of investments.

The initial resources available to finance the plan total €5.5 billion ($5.95 billion), including credits and cooperation funds, the Italian premier said.

Meloni reiterated that the Mattei Plan will be based on “a new approach: not predatory, not paternalistic, but not charitable either.”

Over the past few months, the Meloni government – which has made stopping illegal migration to Italian shores one of its top priorities – has only revealed six macro areas in which its development plan for Africa would focus: education, food, water, agriculture, energy and infrastructure.

Meloni has also named Africa as a key theme of Italy’s G7- presidency, which started in January, as part of its drive to “restore centrality to the Mediterranean.”

In the past year in government, however, she also sealed controversial bilateral agreements with single countries, such as Tunisia and Albania, aimed at discouraging departures of migrants from North Africa and creating structures to process asylum applications outside the Italian territory.

Opposition parties and African organizations on Monday held protests and organized a sort of counter-summit outside the Italian lower house to express their doubts over the real contents of the Mattei Plan.

According to them, despite the government’s slogans, it is inspired by a “neocolonial” approach that will end up exploiting African’s massive natural resources, without introducing new forms of development.

Open criticism to Meloni’s approach also came from one of the first African speakers at the summit, African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, who stressed that African countries would have liked to be consulted before Italy unveiled its plan for Africa.

“We need to pass from words to facts,” Faki told the summit. “We cannot be happy with promises that are never maintained.”