Although Italy has decided to end its African program, the former head of Italian diplomacy Emanuela Del Re is negotiating contracts on the continent. To do this, it relies on a win-win strategy.
With respect to the African continent, France and Italy have two poles apart. La Grande Botte is, of course, a former colonial power, which occupied eastern Libya and the Horn of Africa. But Italy had left the continent at the end of World War II, where other powers were kicked out of Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. In recent decades, relations between Italy and its former Colonies in Africa have moreover been reduced to infrastructure and oil exploitation contracts signed with Libya, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, via the infrastructure giant Trevi and the oil major Eni .
But between 2018 and 2021, former Italian Foreign Minister Emanuela Del Re sought to duplicate the Turkish model in Africa. It was then a question of developing the economic component without showing any political interference on the continent. While Italy found itself isolated in Europe and despite the absence of Muammar Gaddafi, who regularly called on Italian companies for his many projects in sub-Saharan Africa, Emanuela Del Re had decided to take several measures to try to win in Central and West Africa. The minister could then rely on Italian know-how in terms of infrastructure and oil, but also on an anti-French feeling which spread throughout Africa.
A “win-win” relationship
The Italia Africa Business Week (ABW), organized by the Italo-Burkinabé Cleophas Adrien Dioma, Emanuela Del Re's right-hand man, enabled Italy to set up a new framework for exchanges between Italian investors and African entrepreneurs. Italian companies then began to kick several French companies out of the continent. Ferrero thus bought the Nestlé factories in Cameroon and DRC in 2017, Eni won contracts for the exploitation of oil and energy infrastructure in Nigeria, DRC, Mozambique, Morocco, Egypt and Zambia in 2018 As for Trevi, the group has entered the juicy infrastructure market linking the DRC to Uganda and Rwanda.
This rapid rise of Italian companies in Africa, accompanied by active diplomacy - Italy had installed five new embassies in Luanda, Niamey, Brazzaville, Ouagadougou and Conakry - necessarily reduced the influence of the European neighbors of the Grande Botte. . Italy then had the advantage of an anti-French position shared by the African populations. Conte's Italian government, born of a strange alliance between the far left and the far right, was then very critical of French neocolonialism in Africa.
Emanuela Del Re had then developed a strategy at odds with that of France : “Italy has developed a model of its own with Africa. The most important idea is that of a partnership based on an equal relationship. I often refer to the concept of Afropolitanism, ”she said. As for the migration issue, the Minister of Foreign Affairs considered that "the responsibility must be shared at European level". A speech far removed from those of other European leaders.
Italy loses its standoff with France
During a meeting in 2018, the leader of the Italian sovereignists, Georgia Meloni, lambasted the French president. “Shame on you Emmanuel Macron (…), before 'liberating Europe from Africans', Africa must be freed from certain Europeans who print money for fourteen 'sovereign' African nations, make children work in the mines, envied Italy for its privileged relationship with Gaddafi and destroyed Libya by exposing us to migratory chaos today ”. And the politician continues that “Africans are not fleeing Africa, they are fleeing you! (France, editor's note) ”.
Faced with what France considered at the time to be an act of hostile diplomacy, Paris recalled in 2019 its ambassador to Italy. At the dawn of the Covid-19 health crisis, in early 2020, Italy found itself isolated by the European Union. And little by little, the government of Giuseppe Conte began to crumble, until the parliamentary coalition finally broke up. In October 2020, the former president of the European Central Bank, supported by France, the current Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi took power. Emanuela Del Re was obviously not renewed, which put an end to partnership projects between Africa and Italy.
Emanuela Del Re bridges Italy and Africa
While the Italian state no longer seems interested in pursuing its African program today, private actors see this judgment as a shortfall. Emanuela Del Re remains active on his side and his name can be found in many negotiations initiated by Italian industry on the continent. Reconverted special envoy of the European Union for the Sahel, the former minister would have, according to sources which confided to the Journal of Africa, been at the origin of the mediation between the boss of Eni, Claudio Desclazi , and Emirati billionaire Mansoor Mohamed Al Hamed, CEO of Mubadala Petroleum. The two hydrocarbon companies have signed an agreement for the exploitation of new oil fields discovered by Eni off the coast of Côte d'Ivoire. Another agreement concerns the creation of two hydrogen power plants in Libya and Burkina Faso.
Félix Tshisekedi talks about Africa “a land of the future” at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy https://t.co/6IOsZPRQjM
- DESKECO.COM (@deskecocd) September 5, 2021
In July and August, Emanuela Del Re also traveled to the DRC, officially to meet with the authorities after the assassination, last February, of the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio. Unofficially, the diplomat would seek to gain Eni a share of the Congolese oil market. With the gradual exit of the Anglo-Dutch Shell from the DRC, and as the state renegotiates the contracts concluded under Kabila, the Italian company could well see itself taking Shel's place. On the Sahelian side, the EU's special envoy announced on September 9 her departure on official missions to Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Diplomatic missions, but which also aim to forge new partnerships. If Italy seems less interested in Africa today, Emanuela Del Re is giving herself the means to continue the program that she herself had set up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.