Minister Franco Frattini’s visit to Africa, and more specifically to Mauritania, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt and Tunisia, is a significant step in Italy’s strategy for the continent. This translates into the Pact for Africa which the Minister has called for on several occasions and which was approved at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila under the Italian Presidency. The Pact revolves around the need for an enhanced partnership between African countries and the industrialised countries and emerging economies, in full awareness of Africa’s central political role in defining new global equilibria and its strategic importance in terms of economic opportunities.
In Italy’s strategy, Africa is an important actor in solving both global and regional problems. But it is also a potential producer of stability in view of a number of promising indicators. These include: the institution-building under way in certain countries; the economic growth of recent years; the regional integration process based on the ownership principle; the definition of a new approach to economic development in the African continent and the partnership with the developed world; and North-South security.
Africa, therefore, is viewed in the Italian strategy as a key partner in the dialogue on strategic problems such as energy security, and a vital partner in addressing global challenges – in the knowledge that it is now up to Africa to shape its own destiny. Hence the need to move on from the donor-receiver mindset and develop a political dialogue among equals.
Hence, too, the awareness –as Minister Frattini has noted on more than one occasion – that the EU-Africa partnership could be the right instrument to make it easier to achieve two goals: the creation of an African peace and security architecture and the economic integration of the African continent. The partnership should be based, in Minister Frattini’s view, on 4 strands: security and peace-keeping; regional crises and forgotten conflicts; rights and democracy; and a new way to “do” development.
Africa is the region where current UN missions engage about 70% of the “blue helmets” now in operation. One significant and positive factor to emerge is that in the security context the African continent is increasingly willing to take responsibility for managing the crises that afflict it. We need, however, to establish a more effective strategic relationship between the United Nations and the African Union, following the EU-UN cooperation model.
The commitment to “sterilise” crises and open or “low-intensity” conflicts is another crucial sphere for collaboration with Africa. A test-bed for such collaboration could be the crisis in Somalia. A crisis to which Italy feels the need to provide concrete answers in the fora to which our country belongs: the European Union, the United Nations, the G8.
Italy promoted the meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) in Rome in June 2009 and another, extraordinary, ICG meeting in New York on 23 September 2009, in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. We called this second meeting in agreement with Kenya, one of the countries Minister Frattini will be visiting during his mission to Africa. We presented a position paper at the meeting, summarising what Italy feels needs to be done – in agreement with our European partners and especially with the African Union – on security in general and on institutional reconstruction in Somalia.
With respect to rights and democracy, a growing number of African countries has embarked on this road. Italy feels that further steps must be taken to ensure that the inalienable rights of African citizens are increasingly recognised and respected. Italy is in the front line in this battle, especially where the rights of women and children are concerned.
As regards international development aid, Italy feels that the quality of our aid must change – without any reduction in quantity. A new “whole of country” approach to development has been proposed. This would be capable of activating all the actors and instruments needed to trigger development: not just those linked to the use of public aid but also investment, public-private partnerships, NGO initiatives, international trade and initiatives by civil society.
The Summit in L’Aquila saw the adoption, for the first time in the G8’s history, of two joint declarations with the African countries: one on food security and one on water resources.
The Italian strategy also includes the proposal to “halve transaction costs for emigrants’ businesses”. In other words, to achieve a global reduction in remittance costs from the current level of about 10% to 5% within five years. A reduction of about 50%, therefore, which could increase migrants’ earnings by 13-15 billion dollars.