“Investing in rural development will help stabilize African communities,” the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) told the Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference. For two days, cooperation between Italy and Africa was at the center of the debates in Rome, and ministers from 50 African countries were present.
Links between the African continent and Italy are being deepened more than ever. Italy’s geographical situation, migration issues and resource management in the Mediterranean are now central. In the gallery of the Farnesina, building of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the edge of Rome, the ministers highlighted the need for proximity. “Italy is a bridge between Africa and Europe because of its geographical condition, its history and its culture. It is a bridge free of all prejudices, respectful of the specificity of the interlocutors and ready for a pragmatic and open face-to-face,” stressed the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella.
It is with Africa that Italy intends to fight against the challenges that the two continents face, according to him, for economic growth but also against the threat of terrorism, the Islamic State movement having taken root in Libya, 300 kilometers from Italy. Rome wants to make Africa its first reference zone, according to Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, because “Africa is everything but a lost continent,” he argued.
“The education, training, acquisition and development of skills by the population, starting with the female population, whose potential has not yet been widely expressed, and by young people, are the objectives towards which we can and must work together in the common search for sustainable and inclusive development,” added the President. A positive and promising speech in the tense context of the refugee crisis and the rejection of migrants by most European Union countries.
In this context, one of the most constructive speeches was that of the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze. Stressing the fundamental role of rural development in stabilizing communities and reducing the impacts of climate change and migration, the Chair defended the importance of investment in agriculture, including family farming.
IFAD, a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome, invests in rural populations to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and build resilience. Since 1978, it has provided $17.7 billion in low interest loans and grants to projects that have affected some 459 million people.
“IFAD and Italy are convinced that a vibrant agricultural sector depends on small-scale agriculture – and that smallholders have a crucial role to play in food security, nutrition, and poverty reduction,” said Nwanze. “Italy has a long history of investing in the development of sub-Saharan Africa, where almost half of IFAD funding also goes.”
In his opening address to the session entitled “Economic Sustainability: Italy and Africa”, the President of IFAD also spoke about the crucial role that investments in agriculture can play in the development of African economies and in creating opportunities for the 224 million young Africans who will be looking for work over the next decade.
Italy is the fifth contributor to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, with an accumulated contribution of USD 509 million. In addition to its regular contributions, Italy mobilized approximately $60 million in additional funds and co-financed specific initiatives in specific thematic and geographical areas. Since 1994, half of the additional funds provided by Italy have been used to promote food security in sub-Saharan Africa, including Mauritania, Liberia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Niger, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea.