Kenyan President, William Ruto has endorsed Italy’s plan for closer cooperation with Africa, saying it was evidence that Europe was taking the continent seriously despite criticism over the limited initial funding.
Recall that Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni on Monday unveiled a long-awaited initiative aimed at helping African countries prosper in return for curbing illegal immigration, pumping a preliminary 5.5 billion euros ($5.96 billion) into the scheme.
However, President Ruto in an interview told Reuters that the so-called Mattei plan, named after the late founder of Italian energy giant Eni, represented a good start.
“Every journey begins with one simple step. And I think that the most important step has been made, that we are recalibrating our relationship with Italy as a continent,” Ruto said.
“The narrative around Africa was conflict, disease, war. Now it’s changing. It is opportunity, investment, market and solutions,” he said, denying any doubts over the financial stability of his own country.
African Union Commission chief, Moussa Faki Mahamat jolted his Italian hosts on Monday with sharply worded comments at the opening of the summit in Italy’s opulent Senate chamber.
“We are not beggars, our ambition is much higher, we want a paradigm shift for a new model of partnership that can pave the way towards a fairer and more coherent world,” he told Meloni.
“You can well understand that we can no longer be satisfied with mere promises that are often not kept,” he said.
“There is nothing new in the Mattei Plan, just funding already provided in the past and projects started long ago under another name,” said Davide Faraone, the Senate leader of the centrist Italia Viva party.
Of the 5.5 billion euros promised by Meloni, some 3 billion euros came from an international climate fund set up in 2021, while other funds would come in the shape of public guarantees rather than hard cash for on-the-ground projects.
“This is not entirely about money. This is about a relationship,” Ruto said, adding that Europe was waking up to the immense potential of Africa, which has the largest renewable energy resources in the world and two-thirds of its arable land.
“The meeting encapsulated a new thinking not just in Italy, but in Europe and globally, about the place of Africa as a continent,” he said.