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Alfano: “Security and development to strengthen Italy’s commitment in Africa” (La Stampa)

“I am writing to you while I am on a mission to Niger, Senegal and Guinea.”In 2017 Africa has played a central role in Italy’s foreign policy: we have conceived an innovative format, which was acknowledged by Heads of State and Governments at the Ministerial Conference of Transit Countries, that was held at the Farnesina in July 2017. We have proposed a model for assisted voluntary repatriation of economic migrants and refugee resettlements, which was welcomed by the Abidjan EU-Africa Summit; we dedicated a session of the G7 meeting in Taormina to Africa; we have increased our diplomatic presence in the African continent by reopening our embassy in Libya and opening new embassies in Niger, Guinea, and Burkina Faso; we have increased our cooperation contributions to Africa to 180 million euros in 2017, up from 140 million euros in 2016.”As a result I have decided to travel to Africa for my first 2018 institutional engagement, to celebrate this quantum leap in relations between Italy and Africa.”Niger, which is on the southern border of Libya, is among Italy’s priority countries. I have appointed, for the first time, a young ambassador to Niamey, where yesterday I inaugurated our embassy. I also met, for the fifth time in less than a year, my Nigerien counterpart. “Italy’s approach combines security and solidarity.”I allocated 50 million euros to Niger, to strengthen border controls with Libya. A decision that has led to a decrease in the number of migrants, which fell to 4,000 people in 2017, down from 70,000 a year earlier – 15 million euros to IOM, the International Organisation for Migration, for voluntary repatriations and 31 million euros to improve living conditions. In December last, the Italian Government approved the deployment in Niger of training corps to support the G5 Sahel Joint Force and counter threats posed by Islamic jihadism, organised crime and illegal trafficking. We are also supporting regional security initiatives, such as MINUSMA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, and the European missions providing training and assistance to the military and civilians in the Sahel. All this is because the tragic Libyan experience has shown us that local populations and bordering countries pay a high price for the collapse of state institutions. “There cannot be security without development and this is why I firmly believe in the strategic role of development cooperation.”Six out of 10 Africans are below 25 years old, and by 2050 the young population will double to more than 450 million people, from today’s figure of approximately 230 million. For many African countries it is essential that population growth be matched with appropriate job opportunities. Education and culture are our best allies to support development and limit migration flows.”This is why today I am in Senegal, a country with a large potential and which invests a lot in education. In Senegal we develop cooperation projects as well as cultural programmes, thanks to the re-opening of the Italian Cultural Institute. The last stop on my mission will be Guinea, one of the countries where migration flows originate, and where I appointed a young ambassador to open our embassy and relaunch economic cooperation, because Africa is also a continent of opportunities.”In Europe we must be aware that countries such as China are currently making major investments in Africa, and it is in Africa that the future of our security and prosperity are at stake. It is a challenge that Italy and Italian diplomacy are facing and are starting to win.”

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