Giorgia Meloni’s dual African visit. On Friday, the Italian Prime Minister touched down in Mozambique and the Republic of Congo to meet the two respective leaders, Presidents Filipe Nyusi and Denis Sassou N’Guesso. Her goal is to strengthen the bilateral partnerships in the political, economic and energy fields, as the Israeli-Hamas conflict is casting shadows over energy security.
- The Middle Eastern crisis is why PM Meloni had to compress a two-day mission into one single day.
The playbook for engagement. The chief objectives of the “short but productive visit” were “the deepening of relations of friendship, solidarity and cooperation,” remarked President Nyusi during a joint presser. “We reaffirm the two countries’ interest in consolidating bilateral cooperation and the dynamization of economic diplomacy [since] our agenda coincides perfectly.”
- On her part, PM Meloni stressed the need to ditch the vestiges of Europe’s “paternalistic” and “charitable, if you will,” approach. “This is not needed to build solid, lasting relationships between nations. What is needed is to find long-term investments that benefit all actors [and] bring together the interests of different nations. Today, energy is one of those factors.”
- “Europe has an energy supply problem, and Africa is potentially a huge producer of energy, any kind of energy,” she continued, highlighting the potential for cooperation between the continents. That’s also true for raw materials, she stressed, and it’s up to Europe to “support the ability and capacity of nations to process those raw materials” and thus “live and prosper on the many resources that the African continent has.”
Energy is the core focus. PM Meloni was flanked by Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian energy major Eni, which is heavily involved in both countries. The company has been operating in the Republic of Congo since 1968 in the field of hydrocarbons, building the gas-based power plant that generates 70% of the nation’s electricity. More recently, it played a leading role in turning Brazzaville into an LNG exporter by launching a $5 billion gas liquefaction project that’s expected to produce 3 million tonnes per year in 2025.
- Eni also launched Mozambique’s floating liquefaction unit, capable of producing 3.4 million tons per year, in late 2022. It’s currently investing in a second LNG extraction and liquefaction project to boost exports from the Coral South field it discovered off the nation’s coast.
Mattei Plan slides into 2024. Energy cooperation is also a central tenet of the Italian government’s long-awaited Mattei Plan, which is supposed to establish Rome’s non-predatory model of equal cooperation with African countries – and turn Italy into a Mediterranean energy hub – to promote their growth and regional stability, thus also addressing the root causes of emigration.
- The Mattei Plan was supposed to be unveiled in time for the Italy-Africa Summit, planned for early November, but that was postponed due to the flare-up of tensions in Israel – and the repercussions on both regional stability and energy markets.
- The Summit and the presentation of the Mattei Plan have thus been moved to early 2024 due to “the worsening international security environment.” It will probably happen in January.
- Italy is set to assume the G-7 presidency at the same time, with the Global South among its key priorities.
- During the presser, PM Meloni confirmed that Maputo would aid in writing the Mattei Plan.