Rome, Italy: The Italy-Africa summit in Rome, which the Italian government said is conceived as a platform for forging a new relationship between Europe and the continent, opened with a mixed bag of reactions to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s development plan.

Addressing 25 African leaders and top European Union officials in the Italian senate, Meloni said that Africa “will have a place of honour” on the agenda of Italy’s year-long presidency of the G7.

Meloni unveils a €5.5 billion plan, dubbed the “Mattei Plan” after the founder of Italian energy giant Eni. The Italian leader said the Mattei Plan will focus on pilot projects in sectors like healthcare, water, sanitation, agriculture, and infrastructure. The goal, Meloni declared, is to unlock Africa’s “extraordinary potential for development,” create jobs, and ultimately reduce the number of young Africans seeking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe.

“We want to free up African energy to guarantee younger generations a right which to date has been denied,” Meloni said, drawing parallels between Europe’s focus on migration rights and the need to address the root causes prompting migration in the first place.

While Meloni touted the initiative as a solution to both African development and European migration challenges, some African leaders and commentators thought otherwise.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat emphasized the need for “deeds over words,” critiquing the lack of consultation with African countries before the plan’s rollout. His sentiment resonated with some observers who questioned the potential paternalistic undertones of the initiative.

Italy’s plan seems to carry an air of “we know what’s best for you,” a Ghanian economic expert told TOWN CRIER, adding that, “While investments are welcome, genuine partnership requires listening to African voices and prioritizing solutions developed by Africans for Africa.”

Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Leaders Absent from Italy-Africa Summit, Sparking Debate on Neocolonialism

The Italy-Africa summit faced notable absences as the presidents of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger chose not to attend. While official reasons remain unclear, some African analysts opine that their decision may be linked to mounting resistance against perceived neocolonialism, exploitation and paternalistic approaches of the Western world against African countries.

The three West African countries, all part of the Sahel region, have recently experienced political upheaval, with military coups and ongoing challenges against armed groups. Upon emergence as leaders of these countries, their leaders have been expressing a desire for partnerships built on mutual respect and recognition of their complex internal struggles, rather than lectures and prescriptions from former colonial authorities.

A prominent Malian political commentator told TOWN CRIER that: “The wind of change blowing from the Sahel is demanding to be felt across Africa.

We reject outdated paradigms of dependence and interference. Our nations are sovereign, and our partnerships must reflect that.”

His statement highlights a broader sentiment among some African intellectuals and activists who advocate for a shift in power dynamics between Africa and former colonial authorities. They argue for partnerships based on equal footing, respecting African self-determination and prioritizing solutions developed by Africans themselves.

However, others argue that these countries’ perceived lack of governance legitimacy raise concerns about potential benefits of cooperation. They believe a responsible approach requires addressing these internal challenges first, before entering into major partnerships.

The Italian government, seeking to downplay the absent leaders, emphasized the summit’s positive outcomes, including renewed commitments on renewable energy investments and migration management.

However, the undercurrent of neocolonialism and western exploitation of Africa’s resources remain elephants in the room, demanding open dialogue and a re-evaluation of how partnerships with African nations are conceived and executed.

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