Italy-Africa Conference takes off. African leaders and officials arrived in Rome for the launch of the Mattei Plan, the long-awaited flagship foreign policy project of Giorgia Meloni’s government. The Prime Minister herself described it as a “peer-to-peer plan for Africa” based on a combination of political, diplomatic and economic relations to jump-start a new era of cooperation between Italy, the wider European Union, and the African continent.
- It’s the first international event Rome has hosted since taking up the mantle of the G-7 presidency from Tokyo. Italy is making a “precise foreign policy choice” and giving Africa a “place of honour” on its G-7 agenda, stressed PM Meloni at the inauguration on Monday morning.
There’s force in unity. “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” President Sergio Mattarella used this African proverb in his opening toast of Sunday’s welcome dinner, attended by 68 guests – including the 25 African heads of State and government that are taking part in the Conference. Another twenty ministers from other African countries joined in, along with the African Union’s President, Azali Assoumani, and Commission President, Moussa Faki.
- The leaders of the EU Commission, Council and Parliament (Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Roberta Metsola) also took part to the proceedings on Monday, as did a plethora of representatives from the most important multilateral institutions (including the UN) and its financial counterparts (such as the IMF).
Bridging continents. As the PM said in her speech, held in the Italian Senate chamber, Rome is “committed to demonstrating that we are aware of how interconnected the destiny of our continents is and that it is possible to imagine and write a new page in our relations, a cooperation as equals, far from any predatory temptation and charitable approach.” Thus, Italy intends to leverage the Mattei Plan to become the “bridge between Europe and the African continent.”
In practice: the money will be invested in projects that will remain on the ground and generate an economic and social flywheel. The return for Italy and Europe would be greater security and more contained and controlled migratory flows – a consequence of better economic prospects for the African youth, which PM Meloni depicted as the “right not to emigrate.”
- This will play out in “strategic interventions, focused on a few medium-long term priorities.” Projects under the Mattei Plan umbrella encompass economic development, climate change, energy and electrification, infrastructure, migration policy, agriculture and food security, culture and education across all levels.
Where: Rome has identified a set of countries in the sub-Saharan and North African quadrant to begin the process and aims to expand the list “following an incremental logic”. The most evident results will be partnerships for new investments in Africa in exchange for new sources of energy supply and management of migratory flows.
- A large vocational training centre on renewable energy in Morocco, education projects in Tunisia, and health accessibility in the Ivory Coast are “some of the pilot projects” in the Mattei Plan.
- Others are slated to take place in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and the Republic of Congo.
Follow the money. The Mattei Plan “can count on €5.5 billion” in credits, grants and guarantees, remarked the PM. Roughly €3 billion will come from the Italian climate fund, as she had announced at COP28, and another €2.5 billion from the newly created multilateral fund at the African Development Bank.
- Italy and the United Arab Emirates are founding partners and will each contribute €100 million to start with. Saudi Arabia intends to add another 200 million. Other Gulf countries are also looking to contribute, as are other European capitals, most notably Berlin and Paris.
The EU angle. A spokesperson from Brussels officially “welcome[d] the Mattei Plan” before the Conference, noting it “fits well with our shared vision with the African States” as well as with the EU’s Global Gateway initiative – which has already earmarked as much as €150 billion in international support and investments, a significant portion of which will be directed towards the continent.
Next up: Tunis. The Conference is a follow-up of the Development and Migration Conference held in July 2023, which kicked off the “Rome Process” to combine the two issues – addressing migratory flows by means of upstream investment, a core tenet of the Mattei Plan. The next instalment will be held in autumn in Tunisia under President Kais Saied, who took part in the meeting in Rome.