Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria. Photo: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli
Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria. Photo: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli

The Italian Minister of Finance, Giovanni Tria, on Friday, delivered a blunt message to Europe: neglect Africa and perish.

“Africa is a continent of great change and opportunities. However, Europe finds it difficult to understand that its future lies in the South and not in the North,” Tria said in remarks he delivered in Rome at a conference on Africa.

The conference was co-organized by Italy and the African Development Bank.

“Africa today has 5 distinctive advantages – a huge land mass of 30 million square kilometers, huge resources, a fast-growing population, fewer conflicts and major developments in education, and an economy that has consistently expanded over the last 15 years, even though it still only accounts for 3% of global GDP,” Tria added.

There is clear evidence of sustained demand growth across the continent. Consumer spending will reach $2.5 trillion by 2030, while business-to-business investments will reach over $3.5 trillion in the same period.

“With a growing middle class and rapid urbanization, consumer demand from a burgeoning middle class will turn the continent into a prime collective investment opportunity that cannot be ignored,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

“This is proof positive of an Africa in the process of full transformation. Africa is the new international investment frontier,” he added.

With $11.6 billion, Italy was the largest European investor on the continent in 2017, and the third largest after China and the United Arab Emirates.

Minister Tria commended the African Development Bank for its unique role in fostering a favorable investment environment and addressing Africa’s development challenges.

Adesina also dabbled in the migration crisis in Europe, describing it as”one of the biggest current social and political challenges that Italy and Europe have to deal with”.

“I do not believe that the future of Africa’s youth lies in Europe. Neither does it lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The future of Africa’s youth is in Africa helping to grow its economy and employment opportunities,” he said.

The African Development Bank has launched a major initiative, the Jobs for Youth in Africa program, aimed at creating 25 million jobs over a ten-year period.

The Bank has also launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa to encourage banks and finance institutions in Africa to lend to female entrepreneurs and businesses run by women.

Adesina said it had become “critical to change the lenses with which we look at Africa, from development aid to profitable investment”.

The evidence for this, the bank argues, comes from the recently held Africa Investment Forum, an event dedicated to investment transactions which took place last month in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Investment interests were secured in deals worth $38.7 billion in three days of transaction-dominated meetings between investors, the private sector and African countries.

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