Italy and Africa, where are we? Mario Giro’s version

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro: “Africa needs to become part of the economic system, therefore having the necessary know-how to become, at least in part, a continent that is changing. We need a new attitude towards cooperation 2.0. Here our interests but also the interests of the partner come together”

France, Italy and Turkey can form a fruitful triangle of collaboration on the African continent, he reasons with the former deputy foreign minister Mario Girowhich analyzes the Africa dossier starting from an assumption: there is not only the migration issue to be addressed and managed, but the entire aspect linked to the partnership.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that Africa is central, but Italy has no predatory intent. How to develop Italian policies on site?

In Africa, Italy and Europe have had, in the last ten years at least, an attitude that I think is incomplete: that of being exclusively obsessed with the migration issue. What we need is a real partnership: we say it but those countries that are very present, such as France, Great Britain and even Italy, have not achieved it. The truth is that we should find ways to do an exchange partnership.

What does Africa need?

To become itself a producer and processor of both agricultural and mineral primary goods and materials. Instead, up to now we have only gone to collect the raw materials and take them away as everyone has done, the Chinese in the lead. Africa needs to become part of the economic system, therefore having the necessary know-how to become, at least in part, a continent that is changing. This is the objective of the plan that Prime Minister Meloni and Minister Tajani are developing these days and are very innovative in this. As I have always said, a new attitude towards cooperation 2.0 is needed. Here our interests but also the interests of the partner come together.

A few days ago, on the occasion of the 31st Arab League summit, the Algiers Declaration was also strengthened, which calls for joint action to address the regional challenges on the Libyan crisis. Arab leaders have announced an inter-Libyan trial. It’s Italy?

You should absolutely come to an agreement with France and together they should finally succeed, by stopping arguing, in finding a common position on Libya which is the least that can and should be done. I would say that at this point we must also do it with Turkey, which has now become an unavoidable and necessary player in Libya: this is the most important element of all.

What Libya do we have today?

It is a territory in which the state no longer exists, divided between militias of various kinds which are essentially portions. The problem is rebuilding unity: it is very difficult, mind you, so we need a unitary policy that France and Italy can have because they have a common interest on this and on this they must also join forces with Turkey, which is now present on the territory.

Especially after the energy agreements between Italy and Algeria, are you worried about the possible and dense interlocutions between Algiers and Moscow? Specifically, the Algerian president was in Moscow to sign an arms supply and some Russian ships have docked in Algeria lately for some naval exercises.

The Russian presence, in the Mediterranean but also in Libya, has been there for a long time now. For several years. So we shouldn’t be surprised. We have been too distracted by migration issues and have adapted to dealing with traffickers by calling them clan leaders and militia leaders, without the main objective, as I said, of rebuilding the state: at this point it is clear that others have joined the game. Initiatives must be taken and responsibility taken for them.

A big initiative was taken, as you observed, by the Turkish President Erdogan through the instrument of so-called strategic Africa: almost 1200 Turkish projects in 2021 throughout the continent. How can Italy fit into this context?

Turkey has opened 40 embassies in the last twenty years in Africa, so it has become a very important player: certainly Turkey has its problems. First of all it is exposed on many fronts, then there are internal financial criticalities such as enormous inflation, but it also has strengths such as its very enterprising private entrepreneurship, which exposes itself and takes risks as Italian entrepreneurs did in the 60s. We should be able to collaborate on this aspect.

Finally, Ethiopia: last November 3, the seal on the cessation of hostilities between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF, as a result of talks led by the African Union: what role can Italy play?

While in West Africa, where we have recently opened embassies, we too are a historical presence but not so priority, in East Africa we are an important and priority presence: we have also been in these years of war. We have not sufficiently understood the wars in Ethiopia, two wars in the Horn and the one in 2000: we have considered them humanitarian tragedies and the fact that there is finally now a truce makes us all satisfied. We are present to rebuild and above all to establish true reconciliation. It will take time but it is necessary.


Italy and Africa, where are we? Mario Giro’s version –