Italy can play a leading role in the economic growth of Somalia, which has at last emerged from an arduous transition after 20 years of civil war. The point was underscored by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi as he opened the country presentation on Somalia at the Farnesina. The presentation illustrated investment opportunities in the country to members of the Italian business, academic and institutional communities.
Conditions in place for economic regeneration
The minister underscored that today “all the conditions are in place for rapid economic regeneration” in Somalia, against a background of high African growth rates. Italy “intends to be the first to grasp these opportunities” by exploiting its historic links with the country. The goal is to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, starting with “an Italian investment plan to put Somalia’s natural riches to profitable use”.
Demanding challenges still remain
Recent months have seen “comforting” developments for the future of Somalia, with the election of the President of the Republic, the creation of a new government and improved security, noted Terzi. However, “difficult challenges” still remain. They include the improved control of the territory, the supply of basic services for the population, and the strengthening of the federal state institutions. “A general climate of security must be safeguarded”, added Terzi, “if the country is to attract foreign investors”.
The Minister for Trade, Mohamud Ahmed Hassan, assured attendees that Somalia could be “Africa’s locomotive”. He pointed out that his country has oil and mineral resources, a very long coastline and fertile land. Moreover, it is the continent’s largest livestock exporter. Mogadishu does not simply expect humanitarian assistance from the international community, but the development of economic partnerships in the industrial, agri-food, tourism and energy sectors. Minister Hassan reassured his listeners that security is the main “pillar” of the government’s efforts, and encouraged direct investment to his country.
Good response from Italian economic community
The presentation met with a good response from the Italian economic community. ANCE, the construction sector association, asked if the Somali Government’s infrastructure plan could be made available. Others asked for improved transport links, for example a direct Rome-Mogadishu flight. Cultural issues were also raised, such as the use of Italian as a “vehicular” language, on which point the Foreign Ministry and academic institutions said they would take action.
The Somali authorities urged the Italians to be “bold and quick” in grasping the investment opportunities. “There is courage and speed on our part and on yours”, replied the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Michele Valensise, who underscored that if Somalia “continues on this path of stabilisation it will attract numerous Italian companies”. Lastly, he announced that Italy will be inviting the Somali Government to Expo 2015.