Italy unveils plans to curb migration while investing in energy at Africa summit

The ‘Mattei Plan’ hopes to posit Italy as a key bridge between Africa and Europe, funnelling energy north while exchanging investment in the south for deals aimed at curbing migrant departures across the Mediterranean Sea.

Published - January 30, 2024 07:22 am IST - Rome

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni attends a news conference with African Union President Azali Assoumani during the Italy-Africa summit, in Rome, on January 29, 2024.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni attends a news conference with African Union President Azali Assoumani during the Italy-Africa summit, in Rome, on January 29, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

African leaders gathered at a Rome summit on Monday to hear Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s much-hyped plan for the continent, aimed at transforming Italy into an energy hub — and stopping migration.

Far-right leader Meloni, who came to power in 2022 on an anti-migrant ticket, has vowed to reshape relations with African countries by taking a “non-predatory” approach inspired by Enrico Mattei, founder of Italy’s state-owned energy giant Eni.

The so-called Mattei Plan hopes to posit Italy as a key bridge between Africa and Europe, funnelling energy north while exchanging investment in the south for deals aimed at curbing migrant departures across the Mediterranean Sea.

Ms. Meloni said the plan would initially be funded to the tune of 5.5 billion euros, some of which would be loans, with investments focused on energy, agriculture, water, health and education.

Representatives of over 25 countries attended the summit — dubbed “A bridge for common growth” — on Monday at the Italian senate along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and representatives of UN agencies and the World Bank. Ms. Meloni told them that Europe and Africa’s “destinies” were interconnected and she was determined to co-operate “as equals — far from any predatory temptation, but also from that charitable approach to Africa that is ill-suited to its extraordinary potential for development”.

There was no reference to Italy’s colonial past in Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and what is now Somalia.

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