Italy Hosts Meeting with African Leaders

Italy Hosts Meeting with African Leaders


The Mattei Plan

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has unveiled a plan at the Italy-Africa summit hosted in Rome, which details a series of projects, as the ‘Mattei Plan’, that Italy is seeking to undertake in Africa. The Mattei plan, named after Enrico Mattei the founder of Eni, the state-owned Italian electricity company, seeks to establish several different projects in numerous different African nations. The Mattei Plan projects range from energy projects, to education, healthcare, food security, and climate issues.

PM Meloni stated the aim is to seek partnerships devoid of any “predatory temptations”, being criticial of the “‘charity-like” approach that is often taken to Western relationships with Africa.

“Cooperation as equals, far from any predatory temptations, but also from that ‘charity-like’ approach to Africa which is so ill-suited to its extraordinary development potential. This new approach, for which our nation wants to be the standard-bearer, is also reflected in the name of this Summit: ‘Italia-Africa. A bridge for common growth’, because this is Italy’s natural vocation: a bridge between Africa and Europe” -PM Meloni

Meloni has oftentimes been critical of the relationship between several different European countries and Africa, referring to a number of the actions taken by Europe in Africa exploitative and predatory.

The Pillars

Meloni spoke of the different ‘pillars’ of the Mattei plan, and directly addressed several projects which Italy was either planning to undertake, or already undertaking. One of the main motivators behind the Mattei plan is to foster job creation and community improvement within Africa, in order to dissuade illegal immigration to Europe, of which Italy is a prime target for initial landings.

“Illegal mass immigration will never be stopped, human traffickers will never be defeated, unless the root causes that drive people to leave their homes are addressed. This is precisely what we intend to do, on the one hand by declaring war on the ‘slave traders’ of the third millennium and, on the other, by offering African populations an alternative of opportunities, work, training and legal migration paths” -PM Meloni

The first pillar of the plan she spoke of was “Education and Training”. The backbone of the job creation aspect of the Mattei plan, Italy is seeking to build educational facilities and expand educational programs in order to assist with skilled job creation in construction projects and energy projects. As a part of this, she announced Italy’s intention to build a “large centre of excellence for vocational training in the field of renewable energy” in Morocco.

PM Meloni pictured with European Commission President Usrula von der Leyen at the Itali-Africa Summit in Rome, January 29th, 2024 (Photo from Roberto Monaldo/AP).

Building upon the education aspect, she also spoke of the plan to ” strengthen links between the Italian school system and those of African nations”, as well as to expand and upgrade school infrastructure within Africa, adding they will be doing this in Tunisia within 2024. Additionally, she also mentioned the creation of teacher/student exchange programs between Italy and Africa.

Targeting healthcare, Meloni stated Italy’s plan to expand healthcare access across Africa, as well as to improve its quality. Starting with Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), and “paying particular attention to children, their mothers and the most vulnerable people”.

Africa holds within the continent approximately 60% of the worlds arable land. Despite this, Africa remains a net-importer of food, and suffers from significant food insecurity. Addressing this, Meloni announced a series of projects Italy will be undertaking in several different nations across the continent, both in North Africa and Sub-Sarahan Africa. While of course seeking to improve food security, the projects also seek to address food quality.

“I would also like to add that we are not only working on ‘food security’ but on ‘food safety’ too. In other words, the challenge we want to meet is not only about guaranteeing food for all, but guaranteeing quality food for all. Research plays a crucial role in this but, as I have already said, I do not believe that research should be used to produce food in laboratories and perhaps move towards a world in which the rich can eat natural food and the poor can only afford synthetic food, with unpredictable effects on health. This is not the world we want to build” -PM Meloni

Similar to food access, Italy also seeks to improve water access in Africa.

Energy for Europe

As the last aspect of the Mattei plan Meloni spoke of, she mentioned Italy’s goal to become a natural energy supply hub for Europe, using African energy.

“Italy’s goal is to help African nations that are interested in producing enough energy to meet their own needs and then exporting the excess to Europe, combining two needs: Africa’s need to develop this production and generate wealth, and Europe’s need to ensure new energy supply routes” -PM Meloni

The Russian invasion of Ukraine highlighted Europe’s need to diversify its energy needs after several nations suffered energy shortages following a significant drop in Russian oil being exported to the rest of Europe. While Europe has sought several different solutions to this problem, including raising oil imports from Azerbaijan and the oil giants of the Middle East, the problem still remains prevalent, particularly as the relationship between Azerbaijan and France sours. Europe also is seeking methods of energy that will assist in meeting climate goals, as the western world slowly transitions away from fossil fuels.

Italy seeks to establish a series of natural energy projects within Africa, which will then transport excess to Italy, who will then supply said energy to the rest of Europe.

Specifically, Meloni mentioned a project Italy is undertaking in Kenya “dedicated to developing the biofuels supply chain”, which they hope will involve up to 400,000 Kenyan farmers by 2027.

PM Meloni with Kenyan President William Ruto at the Itali-Africa Summit in Rome, January 29th, 2024 (Photo from REUTERS/Remo Casilli).

Funding and Feasibility

The Mattei plan has an initial budget of 5.5 billion Euro’s (5.96 billion USD) in loans, grants, and guarantees. However, Meloni stated that “of course, this is not enough” and that Italy was seeking involvement in the plan from “international financial institutions, multilateral development banks, the European Union and other donor countries” in order to increase the projects budget.

The Italy-Africa summit, held on January 29th, was attended by the representatives of 25 different countries, as well as Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, the President of the European Council.

However, some doubts have been raised as to the feasibility of the plan. While Italy has strong forged relationships with nations in North Africa, its relationships with nations in Sub-Saharan Africa are rather lacking, leading some to worry Italy may not have the necessary African-development knowledge for the plan to achieve its full potential.

Additionally, according to the African Union (AU), there was little consultation between Italy and the AU on the plan before it’s unveiling.

“We need to pass from words to deeds. We cannot be happy with promises that are never maintained” -Former Prime Minister of Chad and Current African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

PM Meloni and Former Chad PM Moussa Faki at the Itali-Africa Summit in Rome, January 29th, 2024 (Photo from Riccardo Antimiani/EPA).

The Mattei plan is a step in the right direction for a relationship between Europe and Africa that is cooperative rather than exploitative, however only time will tell if the project succeeds and Italy’s intentions remain true.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.
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