The Inevitability of Italy-African Relations

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“The development of Africa is a top priority for the European Union and for Italy, for safety reasons ” were the explicit words of the Italian Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, when he delivered his speech at Coopera; the National Conference on Development Cooperation held in Rome in January 2018 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, which was a follow-up on the Abidjan talks between the EU and the African Union.

According to the minister, international Development Cooperation must become a pillar for relations between Italy and the African states. Thus, Italy must increase its International Aid budget, with the aim of bringing it to 0.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), just like Germany. The minister however, pointed out that the Italian government should not only peg its investments in the development of the continent to ethical and moral issues but also to economic ones, so that the Italian system can realize its full potential in the world.

He emphasized that this is the real ultimate bet that Italy must be willing to take in order to change the quality of its relations with Africa, so as to trigger the spark of a balanced and sustainable economic development and not only a buffer to poverty. The exports of Italy’s mechanical industry are worth more than the those of food, fashion and design put together; and Africa needs Italy if it is to start any serious industrialization process, however it is also important to train those who will use the machines, said the minister, to underline the potential of these markets.

It is also important for the European Union (EU) to open up and be willing to change its approach in the way it relates with Africa. The funds allocated by the EU budget to internal Cohesion (the funds for the less developed European regions, such as Southern Italy for example) should, according to the minister, be gradually moved to external cohesion, or to bolster the economies of the states neighbouring the European Union. According to the minister, in order to promote the development of the African continent, EU agricultural subsidies and protectionism should be reduced to encourage the arrival of more African products in Europe.

In 2012 Italy allocated 0.14% of the GDP to the International Development Cooperation. This percentage rose to 17% in 2013, to 0.19% in 2014, to 0.22% in 2015, to 0.26% in 2016 and now, according to the commitments made by the government, it should reach 0.27%. % in 2018 and 0.3% in 2020. The funds allocated for 2018 amount to about 5 billion, however, a substantial part of the funds will remain in Italy for use in the management of migrants. In 2017, as much as 40% of the funds earmarked for international cooperation was utilized on migrants.