54 African Countries, most of them represented at Ministerial level, and 13 International Organizations, including the African Union, for a total of 350 delegates, participated in the second Italy-Africa Conference held at Farnesina on October 25 last. It was a big event that, in the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, “represents the greatest opportunity for a structured dialogue between Italy and the African States, which are recording very fast population and economic growth. It is a particularly significant opportunity that highlights Italy’s commitment and the excellent response received. On our part, we are strongly determined to tackle the issues and opportunities offered by our traditional age-old friendship and evident geopolitical ties, in a relationship genuinely based on cooperation and a fruitful mutual exchange. The Rome event represents a significant indicator of the common wish, on the part of Africa and Italy, to be leading players on the dynamic contemporary scenarios in a growingly competitive globalised world.”
As proof of the primary importance that Italy attaches to its relationship with Africa, the Conference hosted at Farnesina was opened by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and closed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Based on the awareness that the fate of Africa and Europe have always have been closely interconnected, the aim of the Conference is to find shared solutions to the major challenges in the area of peace, freedom, democracy and security, and to agree on common paths towards growth, especially by involving authoritative Italian players from the world of industry and business, academia and non-governmental organizations.
The Conference focuses special attention on the extremely positive developments under way in the so-called Horn of Africa following the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, to which Italy intends to assure its utmost support, as testified by the working meeting between Minister Moavero and the Foreign Ministers of Ethiopia and Eritrea, organised at the beginning of October on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and followed up by the recent visit paid by the Italian Prime Minister.
More generally, the extraordinary state of ferment in the African continent is particularly striking: a genuine celebration of democracy between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, with up to 31 elections on schedule. This situation was unimaginable only a decade ago. Unfortunately, however, these comforting results continue to go hand-in-hand with conflicts and economic crises which are trying to be overcome. Both in upturns and downturns, the Italian Government confirms its commitment to stand by its African friends. Its commitment is tangible and it is sufficient to mention Italy’s participation in the main UN and EU-led peace-keeping missions (13) in Africa; its intense local institution-building activities; its struggle against violent extremism and illicit trafficking; its specific action to foster the stabilisation of Libya and the current political process based on the UN’s action plan.
Peace, freedom, security and equitable socio-economic development are the unalienable basic rights of all people and of all populations. Europe, which has succeeded in putting an end to centuries of fratricidal wars through a decades-long integration process, must stand by Africa in its current phase of development. The two continents have patently complementary economic systems, offering many still untapped opportunities; let us not forget that African average yearly growth rates are very high, around 5%.
The Conference held at Farnesina thus aimed at making an in-depth analysis of the economic cooperation and investment prospects (Italy is already among the major investors in Africa). Moreover, our Country and our university and research system are interested and willing to identify and expand areas of cooperation with counterpart African institutions in the field of training and education. Lastly, it will be impossible not to focus on the area of cultural exchange, especially in the light of Italy’s great vocation and unique experience and the huge and fascinating variety of the millennia-old African cultures and their current-day vivacity. In the light of all these considerable opportunities, we are confident that we will be able to draw positive stimuli for the youth of Africa and Italy with the necessary foresight. Such an approach should also benefit the necessary search for adequate solutions to better manage migration flows and combat all types of illicit trafficking.
As reaffirmed by Minister Moavero, the Foreign Ministry’s Italy-Africa Conference “represents a valuable and unique opportunity to get to know each other better, talk to each other and listen to each other’s viewpoints and real needs on the issues that link us now and might connect us in the future. It is precisely in this perspective that Italy also deems it essential that the European Union guarantees a greater and more effective provision of financial resources to the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework. On the part of Italy, we are thoroughly motivated to act in this direction at the negotiations in Brussels and, among other things, support the introduction of new and genuinely autonomous sources of revenue for the European Union’s budget.”