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Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Beyond Promises and Immigration Deals

Photo: AFP

In the grand halls of Rome, where echoes of ancient empires still whisper of power and diplomacy, the Italy-Africa summit convened, symbolizing a modern nexus between continents. It was here that the chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, took a bold stand, declaring, “We are not beggars,” in a poignant retort to the new migration-centric aid proposal presented by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Prime Minister Meloni’s plan is ambitious and clear-cut: offering economic support to African nations in exchange for their efforts to curb the tide of illegal immigration to Europe’s shores. It’s a plan that highlights Italy’s strategic position as both a gateway and a bulwark for Europe’s migration challenges. The proposal, however, is not without its critics. It has ignited a dialogue about the underlying dynamics of international aid, sovereignty, and the dignity of the African continent. Moussa Faki’s response underscored a sentiment long felt across Africa’s diverse nations—a yearning for partnerships rooted in mutual respect and equitable exchange, not merely transactional relationships defined by aid and conditions. “We cannot be satisfied with mere promises that can’t be kept,” Faki emphasized, alluding to a history of unfulfilled commitments and the often-paternalistic nature of international assistance to Africa. The crux of the issue lies in the balance of power and the narratives that shape it. For years, Africa has been portrayed as a continent in constant need of rescue, a narrative that undermines its agency and potential. Yet the reality is far more complex and promising. Africa is a continent rich in resources, both natural and human. It is a land of burgeoning markets, rising entrepreneurs, and youthful vibrancy, with a median age of just 19 years. As the summit continued, discussions revolved around the classic conundrums of investment and infrastructure, technology and trade, education, and employment. Italy, with its own economic challenges, is keen to assert itself as a pivotal partner to Africa, hoping to stimulate growth and stability that would, in turn, address the root causes of irregular migration. The underlying message from Italy is clear: supporting Africa’s prosperity is in Europe’s own interest.

For Africa’s leaders and its people, prosperity is not a mere bargaining chip in the geopolitical game. It is a goal in itself—a pursuit of development that is self-sustaining and resilient, free from the caprices of foreign agendas. The sentiment expressed by Faki is a rallying cry for a new era of cooperation, one where African nations are active architects of their destiny, not passive recipients of conditional aid. This vision for an empowered Africa calls for partnerships that are genuinely co-creative, where African voices lead in the crafting of policies and programs that affect their future. It requires a paradigm shift from the donor-recipient mindset to one of global collaboration and shared prosperity. The African Union, under Faki’s leadership, seeks to galvanize this shift, promoting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a transformative initiative for intra-African trade and economic integration.
As the summit concluded, the Italian proposition lingered in the air, a testament to the complexity of intertwining interests and the delicate dance of diplomacy. The road ahead for Africa is one of self-determination, demanding a break from the shadow of dependency. It is a path paved with innovation and ambition, where partnerships are predicated on equality and mutual benefit, rather than charity and control. The African Union’s message is one of collective self-reliance. Africa does not wish to be the subject of a global power play, but rather a respected partner on the international stage. As such, the AU has been proactive in its approach, launching Agenda 2063—a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 40 years. This vision aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and seeks to harness the potential of Africa’s people, especially its women and youth.
In the face of climate change, political instability, and the economic fallout from global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s resilience is being tested. These challenges also present opportunities for innovative solutions and partnerships that could propel the continent into a new era of prosperity. Renewable energy, agricultural modernization, digital transformation, and industrialization are key areas where Africa can leapfrog traditional development stages with the right kind of support. The Italy-Africa summit could be a springboard for a deeper, more nuanced engagement between Italy, the broader European Union, and African nations. Italy’s plan to aid African prosperity in return for help with managing migration flows is a starting point for dialogue, but it must evolve into something greater. It should foster a partnership that leverages Italy’s technological prowess and Africa’s growth potential, forging alliances in renewable energy, agriculture, and education that are not contingent on migration control, but rather on shared interests and common goals.
To move beyond the paradigm of promises, concrete steps are essential. Investment in infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with capacity building, ensuring that African workers, engineers, and entrepreneurs can maintain and grow the systems put in place. Education initiatives should focus on equipping the youth with skills relevant to the global economy, while also valuing local knowledge and contexts. Transparency and accountability are also critical components of a renewed partnership. The terms of engagement, the progress of projects, and the allocation of funds must be clear and open to scrutiny. This will help build trust between partners and ensure that the benefits of investment are felt by the people who need them most.
In the wake of the summit, all eyes are on Italy and the African Union to see if they can turn rhetoric into reality. If successful, their collaboration could serve as a model for other countries and regions. For Africa, the message is clear: the continent is ready to rise, not as a beggar but as a builder of its fortune, a shaper of its fate, and a formidable force on the global stage. For Italy and the rest of the world, the question remains: Are they ready to support Africa on its terms, and in doing so, help craft a world where prosperity is shared and sustainable for all? The future of Italy-Africa relations hangs in the balance, poised between old patterns and new possibilities, between mere promises and the path to mutual prosperity.
By Cora Sulleyman

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