Italy’s $6 Billion Plan to Boost Energy and Education in Africa

The fund, named after the founder of Eni, aims to support renewable energy, natural gas, and electricity projects in Africa, as well as to improve access to healthcare and education.

by Motoni Olodun

Italy has announced a $6 billion (5.5 billion euro) fund to strengthen its energy and education ties with Africa, as part of its efforts to curb migration from the continent. The fund, named after Enrico Mattei, the founder of Italian energy giant Eni, was unveiled on Monday by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at a summit with African and European leaders in Rome.

The fund aims to support the development of renewable energy, natural gas, and electricity projects in Africa, as well as to improve access to healthcare and education for millions of Africans. Meloni said that energy and education were the two pillars of Italy’s strategy in Africa, along with agriculture, water resources, and health.

“Energy is the key to development, and education is the key to freedom,” Meloni said, adding that Italy wanted to be a “partner and a friend” of Africa, not a “colonizer or a predator”.

The fund, which will be financed by Italy’s climate fund and development cooperation resources, is also seen as a way to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe, especially to Italy, which has been one of the main destinations for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 23,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy by sea in 2023, a 57% increase compared to 2022. Most of them came from Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco.

Meloni said that Italy wanted to offer “a concrete alternative” to the “drama” of migration, by creating opportunities and hope for young Africans in their own countries. She also called for more cooperation and solidarity among European countries to manage migration flows and to support African development.

The summit, which was attended by dozens of African heads of state and government, as well as by Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was the first of its kind to be held in Italy. It was also the first major international event hosted by Meloni, who became Italy’s first female prime minister in October 2022, after winning a snap election with her right-wing coalition.

The summit coincided with the 10th anniversary of the death of Mattei, who was killed in a plane crash in 1962, under mysterious circumstances. Mattei was a visionary leader who pioneered Italy’s energy cooperation with Africa, especially with Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria. He also advocated for a fairer and more respectful relationship between the West and the developing world, challenging the interests of the major oil companies.

Eni, the company he founded in 1953, is still one of the largest and most influential energy players in Africa, with operations in 15 countries and a production of over 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Eni has been particularly active in securing more natural gas supply for Europe from Africa, as an alternative to Russian gas, which was cut off after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

In February 2023, Eni’s chief executive Claudio Descalzi announced that the company had finalized agreements and activities to fully replace Russian gas by 2025, by ramping up volumes from Algeria, Egypt, Mozambique, Congo, and Qatar5.

The Italian fund is expected to boost Eni’s presence and projects in Africa, as well as to foster new partnerships and investments from other Italian and European companies. The fund is also in line with the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and to support the green transition in Africa and other regions.

The summit concluded with a joint declaration, in which the participants reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the strategic partnership between Europe and Africa, based on mutual respect, shared values, and common interests. They also agreed to work together to tackle the global challenges of climate change, poverty, inequality, terrorism, and pandemics.

The declaration also expressed the hope that the fund would be “a catalyst for a new era of cooperation and friendship” between Italy and Africa, and “a model for other countries and regions to follow”.


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