Home » Senator Borghi on competing with China and Russia in Africa

Senator Borghi on competing with China and Russia in Africa

The Italian MP stressed the need for Italy and the EU to adopt a proactive approach to counter China, Russia, and Turkey. He also advocated for a comprehensive European strategy, integrated with Italy’s Mattei Plan, to mobilise private investment and enhance national companies in energy, infrastructure, education, culture, and agriculture

In an interview…with our sister company Formiche, Senator Enrico Borghi, a prominent politician from the centrist party Italia Viva and member of the Parliamentary Committee for Intelligence (Copasir), discussed his recent trip to the Horn of Africa.

  • According to Senator Borghi, Italy maintains significant influence in the region and its presence is viewed positively. He stated, “It is recognised that Italy has completely freed itself from colonial schemes.”
  • This standing is evident in Italy’s crucial role in negotiations during the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia and its substantial infrastructural investments. This includes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a major hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile worth $4 billion, which is being built by the Italian WeBuild group.

Djibouti and Bab al-Mandab. The strait is a significant bottleneck for global trade. In recent years, the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Japan have established a military presence in Djibouti, a strategically located country on the Red Sea.

  • Italy’s base in Djibouti allows them to maintain a notable military presence in the region, supporting naval missions like “Atlantia” and “Aspides” in the Red Sea and other operations such as counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia.
  • It is worth noting that the People’s Republic of China also has a military base in Djibouti, which is its first military base abroad.
  • Senator Borghi pointed out that Chinese activities in Djibouti are increasing, as they currently hold 60% of the country’s foreign debt and are strengthening their economic ties through significant infrastructure projects like the new Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway and a new port terminal that is still under construction.

Italy and Europe chasing emerging players. When asked about the increasing influence of China, Russia, and Turkey in the region, Senator Borghi emphasised the need for a more proactive approach from Italy and the EU.

  • He highlighted that the decline of French postcolonialism in Africa could create space for other powers to step in. Borghi also mentioned that Russia, China, and Turkey are important partners as they provide security.
  • “As Europeans, if we only focus on discussions about rights or climate change, we will not make much progress,” he added.

The role of the Mattei Plan. Senator Borghi emphasised Italy’s crucial near future in Africa and welcomed an organised and structured approach to the continent. However, he believes that a European approach, integrated into Italy’s ambitious new development plan (the Mattei Plan), would be more effective.

  • Italy alone does not have the financial resources to compete with China, so elevating the project to a multinational level under Italian leadership would be more compelling.
  • Additionally, he stated that Italy should effectively mobilise private investment and increase the presence of national companies, particularly in promising sectors such as energy, infrastructure, education and culture, and agriculture.

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