While Africa today offers a growing range of opportunities it also poses challenges to global security and to the common interests of the international community, and as a result of its geographic proximity, these opportunities and challenges are of direct concern to Europe, and to Italy in particular.
The opportunities are linked with the major economic potential of the continent, where GDP growth is over 5% annually, and by the interests this is raising, which range from its not yet fully unexploited natural resources and the potential of its markets, which need to be better integrated into current world economy circuits, to regional and sub-regional demands for effective security systems and economic cooperation capable of producing solid development policies. From a political standpoint it is impossible to ignore the slow but gradual spread of systems of government based on democratic principles and free elections (Congo stands as a good example of all of these).
The challenges, on the other hand, derive from a series of ongoing armed conflicts (often embittered by ethnic/religious differences) and the role played in these by non-State entities funded by the profits of trafficking in mineral resources and weapons, and by often highly precarious basic economic conditions, complex demographic realities and their consequent migratory pressures, the effects of desertification on world ecological balances and large-scale health and humanitarian emergencies.
The United Nations Security Council devotes a major portion of its sessions (approximately two-thirds) to crisis situations in Africa. The problems of poverty in Africa, and of debt in less advanced countries, have long been of concern to the European Union, the G8 and international financial institutions, among others, but this attention has not resulted in recent years in an adequate mobilization of resources by industrialized countries partly as a result of coincident crises in other parts of the world and the commitment required to confront them as well.