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Italy To Collaborate With AfDB As It Unveils $5.95bn Strategic Plan For Africa

Siaka MOMOH

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and the President of the African Development Bank Group Dr Akinwumi Adesina have agreed to work together to strengthen the alliance between Italy and Africa, a report by AfDB has confirmed.

Meloni and Adesina held a bilateral meeting in Rome on Tuesday last week, a day after the week’s Italy-Africa summit. More than 25 African heads of state and government attended the summit, as well as representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations, international financial institutions, and multilateral development banks.

During the summit, Prime Minister Meloni unveiled her almost US$6 billion Mattei plan to bolster economic links and create an energy hub for Europe, while curbing African emigration to Europe. The plan is named after the founder of Italy’s national oil and gas company Enrico Mattei.

Adesina said the African Development Bank was ready to work with the Italian government because “the Mattei Plan fits into the priorities of the Bank,” known as the High 5s.

He thanked Italy for being a staunch supporter of the African Development Bank Group and said to the Italian prime minister: “You can count on the African Development Bank as your partner of choice.” 

Meloni said she looked forward to building an alliance with Africa and that “the role of the [African Development] Bank is useful.”

The Mattei Plan covers five sectors: education and training; health; energy; water and agriculture, which Meloni said was the plan’s focus.

Adesina told the Italian prime minister about the African Development Bank’s initiatives to transform the development of the African continent. He outlined its work on accelerating the drive to achieve food security through its Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme, which it has so far delivered to more than 13 million farmers. He explained that the technology has helped Ethiopia—which used to import wheat—become self-sufficient and a net exporter of the product.

Adesina highlighted the January 2023 Dakar 2 Food Summit—in which more than 34 heads of state and government participated. He noted that the summit, which the African Development Bank, the African Union and the government of Senegal jointly convened—had mobilised US$72 billion to implement food and agricultural delivery compacts by over 41 African countries. 

Other initiatives the Bank Group head spoke about included its Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks programme, which has been designed to solely fund the businesses and ventures of Africa’s youth and enable these young entrepreneurs to thrive on the continent. He explained that the Bank has also committed $1 billion to support 4,000 tertiary education and training facilities; and provided close to 1.7 million African youths with access to education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics related education.

He described the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme, which, he underscored is backed by G7 nations, including Italy, pointing out that it is helping to mobilise $5 billion of financing for the businesses of women on the African continent. He said that by last year, it had disbursed $1.2 billion by last year to women businesses.

Adesina told his host that together, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are working closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the re-channelling of IMF Special Drawing Rights through multilateral development banks. He explained that the banks could leverage them by three to four times their value and deliver greater development outcomes for the African continent.

He invited Meloni to champion the African Development Bank-led effort to provide clean cooking equipment to 250 million women in Africa by 2030. He said the continent required $4 billion a year to meet that target and the Bank was already leading the way by committing 20% of its energy financing to clean cooking. “This requires that governments direct at least 5% of the current $70 billion energy investments annually, into provision of clean cooking solutions,” he said, adding that this would provide close to the required $4 billion, annually.

Italy assumed on the Presidency of the G7 in January.  Prime Minister Meloni told Adesina that as her country advanced its Mattei plan, “we will work with you on food security, clean cooking energy and other initiatives.”

Just before meeting with the Italian prime minister, Adesina gave a rousing speech to the General Assembly of the Association for the Development of Italian Companies in Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East—the Confindustria Assafrica & Mediterraneo.

The Bank Group president told the Italian business community that Africa offered compelling opportunities for investors and that the continent will determine the future of the world.

Adesina told potential investors that despite current challenging global economic environment, six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

He described Africa as an unparalleled investment opportunity, and the world’s best destination for both the present and the future.  He reminded them that Africa had the largest number of young people in the world with over 75% of its population aged less than 35 years, and a continent where purchasing power was rising rapidly.

“Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world, offering an immense market, with consumer and business spending projected to reach US$7 trillion by 2030,” Adesina said, adding: “There are opportunities for trade. There are opportunities for investment… Africa is also not as risky to investments as many perceive.”

Buttressing his argument with figures, Adesina noted that exports from Africa to the European Union totalled $203 billion in 2022, while imports from Europe into Africa was $174 billion. He said there was a significant advantage for Italian firms looking to do business in Africa. He explained that foreign direct investment from Italy to Africa reached $30 billion in 2022, even though this represented only 5% of Italy’s total foreign direct investment globally.

The President of the Confindustria & Mediteranneo, Mr. Massimo Dal Checco, welcomed the African Development Bank Group President’s remarks. He said Italy was an active player in the African business space, and he expressed the enthusiasm of the Italian business community in continuing to explore the many investment and business opportunities that African countries offered. Meanwhile, at a separate event during the week, the Italian Climate Fund gave a strong signal of support for Africa. On Tuesday, it pledged more than $40 million to the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA). The Italian government made the pledge through the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), a prominent Italian development bank, during the Italy-Africa Summit in Rome. The pledge will help to rapidly scale up financing for transformative climate-aligned infrastructure projects across the African continent

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