President in Rome for Italy-Africa Summit

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa arrived here last night and is set to join other world leaders at the Italy-Africa Summit where Rome is expected to present a strategic partnership with Africa, aimed at improving trade, particularly in the area of energy, diplomacy and migration.

The President is accompanied by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube and other senior Government officials.

He was welcomed at the Ciampino International Airport by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Italy Mietani Chauke and senior Italian government officials.

Earlier yesterday, President Mnangagwa was seen off at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, service chiefs and other senior Government officials.

During the summit, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is expected to present a strategic plan for the African continent towards energy cooperation, among other areas.

The scheme, known as the “Mattei Plan” and named after Enrico Mattei, the founder of state-controlled energy group Eni (ENI.MI), is expected to lay the ground for cooperation beyond the energy sector. The summit is expected to give impetus to the Second Republic’s thrust to achieve energy sufficiency for sustained economic growth.

Zimbabwe has taken several initiatives to boost its energy generation capacity in the wake of the growing industrial sector, anchored by the Government’s economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy. Some of the initiatives include the rehabilitation  of Hwange Unit 7 and 8, licencing of Independent Power Producers, among others.

Italy will take over the presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised nations this year and has pledged to make Africa a central theme during its reign.

President Mnangagwa will join several Heads of State and Government who have confirmed their attendance in Rome. The President is also expected to hold meetings on the sidelines of the summit aimed at deepening cooperation with other countries as part of the engagement and re-engagement thrust.

His presence at the summit dovetails with the Second Republic’s foreign policy trajectory that Zimbabwe is a friend to all and an enemy to none.

Prime Minister Meloni wants to showcase the “Mattei Plan” as the crown jewel of her foreign policy, aiming to once again renew Italy’s approach to the African continent.

Italy imports about 40 percent of its gas from African producers and discussions will centre around ways of increasing trade with the continent.

Observers have also noted that issues around climate, energy crises, political instability particularly in West Africa, and migration, are some of the issues that ought to be tackled during the summit to attain strong and sustainable cooperation.

Italy has in the past taken practical steps to deepen cooperation with Africa.

In 2007, the then Prime Minister Romano Prodi visited the African Union while later on, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced the opening of five new embassies on the continent.

He has also approved a new law on development aid and visited seven African capitals to stimulate cooperation, investment and stronger relations.

PM Meloni has, however, stepped up her diplomatic efforts by adopting a multi-year strategy supported by defined policy instruments that foster cooperation with African capitals.

As Italy assumes the rotating presidency of the G7 leading industrial nations, PM Meloni has already indicated that a focus on developing strategic partnerships with Africa, rather than providing aid, will be key during its one-year tenure.

Developing local economies and raising living standards in Africa, she said, could dissuade prospective migrants from seeking refuge in Europe.


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