HomeWorldMeloni to unveil plan to expand Italian influence in Africa

Meloni to unveil plan to expand Italian influence in Africa

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The Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, is poised to announce her grand plan for Italy in Africa as she strives to position her country at the forefront of European cooperation on the African continent in return for curbing illegal migration.

The so-called Mattei plan, named after Enrico Mattei, the founder of the oil company Eni, will be presented in Rome on Monday to a host of leaders from Africa and Europe, including the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.

Meloni announced her Africa plan soon after her far-right government took office in October 2022, with the main goal of transforming Italy into an energy hub as Europe was weaning itself off Russian gas.

Although details of the plan’s broader scope have so far been scarce, a draft decree approved in November envisions Italy taking what Meloni has described as a “non-predatory” approach to helping African countries in areas including education, health, exports and infrastructure.

A priority for Meloni in exchange for helping African economies to prosper is stemming the flow of migrants from Africa, an election pledge she has so far failed to fulfil.

Such is the importance of the initiative for Meloni that her office will be tasked with executing the plan. She also took the unusual step of hosting the summit in the Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian senate, a move criticised by opposition parties who accused her of “seizing” the building.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Lucio Malan, the senate’s chief whip, told the Guardian. “It’s a matter of prestige and won’t disrupt the work of senators in any way. That such an important event is taking place in the senate, an ancient palace filled with history and artworks, will give a beautiful impression of Italy.”

Malan said the African continent had always been of strategic importance for Italy. “Tunisia is closer to Sicily than Sicily is to Rome,” he said, adding that the plan was also aimed at increasing clout in a continent where countries including Russia and Turkey had already made significant inroads.

Leaders from 23 African nations and bodies will attend the summit, including Moussa Faki, the president of the African Union Commission, to whom Meloni was duped into believing she was speaking in a prank call orchestrated by two Russian comedians in November.

Francesco Galietti, the founder of Policy Sonar, a political consultancy in Rome, said: “Meloni has been trying to set up this summit for a long time. She is presenting it as a grand strategy and because of that it’s getting lots of attention. However, we still don’t know who will be involved, how much money will be pumped into it, whether it’s going to just be diplomacy and soft power or something more.”

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