Italy's 'Mattei plan' excites investors as African migrants fear for their lives
Facing the migration crisis between Africa and Europe requires the involvement of private sectors on both continents, says Morocco's Prime Minister Aziz Akhennouch.
On 29 January, the Moroccan PM met with his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni in the Africa-Europe Summit– dubbed "a bridge for common growth" – along with 24 other officials from the African continent.
During the summit, far-right leader Meloni, who rose to power in 2022 on an anti-migrant ticket, vowed to swap energy investments for African efforts to curb migration as part of her so-called "Mattei Plan".
"To face a challenge of this magnitude, the involvement of the private sector is necessary: Italian, European and African," the Moroccan PM, who is also a giant investor in energy in Africa, told La Republica, an Italian media, on Wednesday.
What is the Mattei Plan?
The "Mattei Plan", inspired by Enrico Mattei, founder of Italy's state-owned energy giant Eni, is part of Meloni's claim to reshape relations with African countries "as equals" while avoiding the "predatory" approaches of the past.
The plan vows to position Italy as a key bridge between Africa and Europe, offering energy investment agreements in exchange for mitigating migrant departures across the Mediterranean Sea.
Rome said the plan would initially be funded to US$5.9 billion, some of which would be in the form of loans, with investment focused on the energy, agriculture, water, health and education sectors.
The Italian plan would start with a series of pilot schemes, from providing training in renewable energies in Morocco to modernising grain production in Egypt - to be extended across the continent.
Nevertheless, some African leaders are worried that the plan would favour European priorities.
"I want to insist here on moving from words to actions. You can well understand that we can no longer be satisfied with mere promises that are often not kept," Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, wishing that Africa had been consulted first on priorities and emphasising the need to honour commitments.
North Africa's migrants in distress
In Oulad Ziane, a blighted neighbourhood in Casablanca, Meloni's plan adds to the Sub-Saharan migrants' distress and 'fear over their lives.'
"This plan sounds like just another carte blanche for transit states to harm us, evacuate us," says Yussuf, a Malian migrant in Casablanca, when he heard about the Mattei plan.
Over 700 Sub-Saharan migrants live in a makeshift camp set on the edge of the coastal port city of 4.2 million people. Each bears several stories of hunger, war, death, and failed attempts to cross the borders, by land and sea, to Europe.
Moroccan authorities say they stopped over 75,000 people from entering Europe in 2023, a significant increase in interceptions since the year before, showcasing closer cooperation, sometimes deadly, namely the Melilla massacre, between the North African nation and Europe.
In Tunis, the same feeling rules among the African migrants who have been daily battling racial violence and discrimination since President Saied's infamous, xenophobic speech last February.
"We are fleeing war and death. We want a place to live in dignity. Migration is our only solution, and they can't stop us," says Saliou, a Guniean migrant in Tunisia who has yet to achieve his dream of crossing to Italy. Saliou fears such a plan would make his and his friends' lives "cheaper."
Meanwhile, international NGOs, including rescue ships, continue to document and report on cases of pullbacks and violence by the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard.
More than 2,500 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency.
Meloni's plan does not address the humanitarian situation of African migrants.