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The Mattei Plan: the Italian strategy toward Africa

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The new Italian strategy towards Africa and developing countries takes its name from the entrepreneurial genius who created Italian energy policy and developed the multinational energy company ENI; controlled by the state and allowed the entrepreneurial development of Italy. We are talking about Enrico Mattei, killed in an attack on his plane prepared probably by the French secret services, and the Italian strategy is therefore called the Mattei Plan, “Il Piano Mattei“. This is the most ambitious creation of Ms Giorgia Meloni’s government.

A proper ‘directorate‘ at the helm of the executive, welcoming non-profit organizations and civil society, will oversee a fresh collaboration between Italy and African nations. This steering committee will handle an array of responsibilities, notably promoting access to resources provided by the EU and international organizations, including financial institutions and multilateral development banks. This forms the crux of the so-called ‘Mattei Plan’, the new geopolitical initiative by the Meloni government aimed at fostering’sustainable and enduring’ development across political, economic, cultural, and security realms between Italy and Africa. The objective is to encourage participation from countries in the Mediterranean’s southern region in the proposed initiatives, urging them to contribute to stability and security in the region, starting with curbing irregular migration. This ambitious mission is set to be launched today through a decree-law by the Council of Ministers.

Priorities for action

The effectiveness of the strategy from Palazzo Chigi will be demonstrated through various actions focusing on specific areas. The draft decree outlines the following key areas:

  1. Development cooperation, promotion of exports and investments, support for entrepreneurship (especially among the youth and women), research and innovation, agriculture, and food safety
  2. Job creation, education, and vocational training
  3. Sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including water and energy, environmental conservation, and adaptation to climate change
  4. Modernization and enhancement of infrastructure (including digital infrastructure) and promotion and development of the energy partnership (including renewable sources)
  5. Healthcare, prevention, and the fight against irregular immigration

The decree also mandates that the Plan, spanning four years and subject to updates during its implementation, will be tailored to different strategies based on the territory and sectors of action. Central administrations will be obligated to comply with the outlined activities within their respective jurisdictions.

Direction. A new steering committee will be established to ensure the success of the Mattei Plan. This committee will be led directly by the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs serving as the deputy chair. Additionally, other ministers, the president of the Conference of Regions, the director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the presidents of ICE, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, and Sace, along with representatives from state-owned companies, the university-research system, the third sector, public or private bodies, and experts in the field will also be members. The individuals on the steering committee will be selected through a decree issued by the Prime Minister within two months of the new decree coming into effect. Importantly, the members of the steering committee will serve without any compensation, attendance fees, expense reimbursements, or other emoluments, as stipulated by the decree.

Tasks of the steering committee. The draft decree outlines these tasks in detail, emphasizing that coordinated activities will be conducted “within the framework of protecting and promoting national interests.” The new ‘directorate’ will be responsible for finalizing the Mattei Plan and its updates through deliberations, overseeing the implementation of the plan, and providing annual reports. It will coordinate the efforts of public, private, and governmental entities involved, as well as communication initiatives. Notably, it will also facilitate access to funds provided by the EU and international organizations, including those from financial institutions and multilateral development banks.

Within two months of the decree’s launch, ministers will need to:

  1. Specify the ongoing or planned initiatives with African countries, the committed resources, and the anticipated timeline for implementation.
  2. Propose measures to strengthen existing projects and introduce new initiatives.
  3. Suggest reforms to enhance the effectiveness of relations between Italy and the African continent.

The operational unit.

A new mission structure will be established at Palazzo Chigi, led by a diplomat serving as the coordinator. This unit will have an annual budget of 500,000 euros for potential expert payments and a total of approximately 2.6 million euros for personnel expenses. Its core responsibilities will involve assisting the Prime Minister in the government’s strategic actions concerning the implementation of the Mattei Plan, managing the steering committee’s secretariat, and preparing an annual progress report on the plan and any proposed improvement actions, to be submitted by June 30th.

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