Italy’s Giorgia Meloni opens Africa summit with plan to curb migration and boost development

Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni opened up the Africa summit in Rome on Monday unveiling a plan to boost development for the continent that she hopes would curb migrant arrivals and forge a new relationship between Europe and Africa.

During her opening speech, the Italian prime minister outlined a series of pilot projects in individual countries that she said would enable Africa to become a major exporter of energy to Europe, helping it reduce its dependence from Russian energy.

“We want to free up African energy to guarantee younger generations a right which to date has been denied,” Meloni said. “Because here in Europe we talk a lot about the right to emigrate, but we rarely talk about guaranteeing the right to not be forced to emigrate.”

According to Meloni, her country’s plan for Africa’s development will create jobs in the continent and discourage young people from leaving and attempting dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. The plan, named after founder of state-controlled and gas giant Eni Enrico Mattei, involves pilot projects in areas such as health care, water, sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure.

“It’s a cooperation of equals, far from any predatory temptation but also far from the charitable posture with Africa that rarely is reconciled with its extraordinary potential for development,” Meloni told the leaders.

But Italy’s plan seemed to fail to spark enthusiasm among African leaders. African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said that African countries would have liked to have been consulted before Italy rolled out its plan.

“We need to pass from words to deeds,” Faki, the former prime minister of Chad, said addressing the summit. “We cannot be happy with promises that are never maintained.”

Two dozen African leaders, top European Union and United Nations officials and representatives from international lending institutions are attending the event in Rome, the first major event of Italy’s G7 presidency.

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