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Italy-Africa initiative under way – We must focus the spotlight on Africa once again, says Bonino

A wide-ranging initiative “to focus our country’s spotlight once again on Africa” by revitalising the political, economic and cultural partnership between Italy and the entire African continent. That was how Foreign Minister Emma Bonino introduced the Italy-Africa initiative today at the Farnesina as she chaired a conference attended by, among others, the Minister for Culture and Tourism, Massimo Bray, and the Minister for Integration, Cecile Kyenge.

Africa: a young continent offering great opportunities for Italian spheres of excellence

The Italy-Africa initiative, remarked Minister Bonino, “is not intended merely as a snapshot of what’s being done right now, but as an impetus to go further”. We must focus our country’s spotlight once again on the African continent “to show clearly in both Italy and Africa the possibilities opened up by wide-ranging mutual collaboration: political, economic, social and cultural”. By working at system-level, “Italy aims to play a part, with its capacity to act and its spheres of excellence, in the positive developments under way” in Africa.

Not least because while the African continent, like all the others, is a place of light and shadow, it is at the same time a place of great opportunities. Opportunities that fit well with the diplomacy for growth policies pursued by the Foreign Ministry. With a population growing at an annual rate of 2.3% and 40.8% of its people aged 14 or younger, Africa has a young, dynamic entrepreneurial class in which women play a vital role, explained Emma Bonino. The Minister pointed out that, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, “7 of the 10 economies that will see the highest growth rates in the 2011-2015 period are those of sub-Saharan countries”. They are, in order, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana,Zambia and Nigeria.

Wide-ranging Italian initiatives, from human rights to renewable energy

“We want to follow the model of the Italy-Latin America initiative” and, if we do our work well, hold an Italy-Africa conference in 2015, announced Bonino. She expressed the hope that an Italian Embassy will open soon in Mogadishu and announced missions to Ghana and Senegal – from 5 to 8 January 2104 – and to Sierra Leone, from 13 January. In the same month, Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli will be visiting Addis Ababa to attend the African Union Summit.

The goal of the Italy-African initiative is to revitalise Italian initiatives in the continent in various sectors: from human rights to the stabilisation of democracy, from conflict prevention to renewable energy, agriculture and the environment. In so doing we must ensure that “the partnership process develops in sectors identified along with our African partners”, explained Minister Bonino. She commented on the role that the African community in Italy could play and underscored that EXPO 2015 in Milan, which numerous African countries will be attending, will be a great opportunity to strengthen economic collaboration between Italian companies and the African continent.

South Sudan: support for Kenyan-Ethiopian mediation

A continent which, like many other regions on the planet, has areas of crisis. “The issue of Mali is still unresolved and has important linkages in other countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean in view of the interconnections with Jihadist groups. Groups whose mobility is worrying”, commented Minister Bonino. Turning to South Sudan, she underscored Italy’s support for the mediation effort by Kenya and Ethiopia. The Minister explained that “We now have coordination at both the European and the UN level – in South Sudan it’s not a case of bilateral action. The problem is that, even at the multilateral level, discussion is not easy. Opinions are divergent and there’s no great enthusiasm for intervention”.

Italian families in DRC: the Farnesina’s efforts are constant and on-going

Another delicate situation has arisen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with clashes today inKinshasa and other parts of the country. And with 24 Italian families still prevented from leaving the capital with the children they have adopted. In response to their appeal, Minister Bonino underscored the huge efforts being made by the Farnesina on their behalf and announced that a Congolese government delegation, including the Minister of Family Affairs, will be visiting Rome to verify the adoption procedures.

“We will not give up and will continue in our efforts with great determination and persistence, day after day, while understanding that the situation is not easy”, stated Minister Bonino. She announced that, in view of the difficult conditions in Kinshasa, she will be sending two additional staff members to reinforce the Italian Embassy in the Congolese capital.

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