“I think it is very clear particularly to us Italians, that for historical and geographical reasons, Europe’s future is at stake in Africa”. So declared Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council while on his African tour, from 24 to 29 November, travelling through Tunisia, Angola, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

By making this statement, he unintentionally disclosed the truth to us: today Italy and Europe consider Africa to be crucial for the same “historical and geographical reasons” that arose in the past, that is, when Africa was under their colonial control.

Africa has vast pools of wealth, which take the form of raw materials: gold, diamond, uranium, coltan, copper, oil, natural gas, manganese, phosphate, precious timber, cocoa, coffee, cotton and a host of other things. These precious resources, exploited by the European colonial powers, which used old methods akin to slavery, are today exploited by European neo-colonialism which is manipulating groups holding power and corrupt African leaders, a cheap local labour force and control over domestic and international markets.

Premier Gentiloni’s business trip confirms this. His status while travelling is as Eni’s travelling spokesman. In Africa, the multinational Eni has a presence in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, the Republic of Congo, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. Tunisia, which is the first country Gentiloni is stopping off at on his voyage, is an important Eni base for two reasons: first because of its reserves in El Borma and second because it’s a transit route for the Transmed gas pipeline that brings Algerian gas into Italy. In Angola, Gentiloni attended together with President Lourenço, the signing of a lucrative agreement, transferring to Eni 48% of the rights over the huge reserve, Cabinda North. In Ghana he visited the Eni floating maxi platform for production and storage, for exploiting offshore reserves of more than 40 billion cubic metres of gas and 500 million barrels of oil.

In the Ivory Coast Eni purchased 30% of a large offshore area, rich in hydrocarbons through its subsidiary, Eni Côte d’Ivoire Limited based in London. It is here as well that Gentiloni participated at the fifth EU – African Union Summit – together with Mogherini (Lady PESC), the EU’s Representative for Foreign Affairs, the French President (Macron) and the German Chancellor (Merkel). The Summit is focussing on the new European investments in Africa, injected with the noble intention of “giving new hopes to young Africans”. Yet generally speaking, such investments are targeted at the African elites, who are needed by neo-colonial interests need to achieve their targets.

Another point: in countries generating the most income from exporting raw materials, the majority of their inhabitants live in poverty. According to UN data, two thirds of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in poverty and more than 40% live in extreme poverty. Symbolic: the examples of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, both countries that Gentiloni visited. Both countries boast a wealth of energy resources and in addition are also the first two global producers of cocoa (with almost 60% of total production). This is cultivated for the most part by small farmers, that live in poverty because they are forced to sell cocoa seeds at very low prices, from which multinationals producing chocolate derive substantial profits. So, just as Renzi has also said, “we are helping Africans while they are in their own countries”.

In the five-year period 2010-2015, the United States, Great Britain, France, China, South Africa and Italy have made the biggest investments in Africa. However, by 2016 China had sprinted to the lead, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Italy which, Gentiloni declared with pride, was the biggest European investor in Africa last year, with around 12 billion. The United States and the European Union see their dominant role in the African economies exposed to increasing danger by China, whose companies offer African countries much more favourable conditions and build the infrastructure that they so badly need: so far, around 2,300 km of railway lines and 3,300 km of roads. While this is going on, the United States and the European Union see their interests threatened by armed movements, such as the “Niger Delta Avengers” that attack the plants of the US Shell and other oil companies including Eni, which are responsible for environmental and social disaster in the Niger’s delta.

Since they are losing ground on the economic terrain, the United States and the European powers with the most clout are throwing their military might to tip the balance in their favour. Citing the official reason of fighting terrorism, the US African Command is extending the reach and muscle of its military network on the continent through special forces operations, the use of armed drones, equipment and the weapons of African Special Forces. France, which over the last 50 years, has completed another 50 official military interventions plus many other secret operations on the continent, is stepping up its operations in Western, Central and Eastern Africa, where it maintains around 7,000 soldiers and different military bases especially in Mali, Senegal, Gabon and the Ivory Coast. Italy – which has a military presence in Libya, Mali, Somalia and Djibouti – is pushing Nato to intervene in Africa. “Nato – stresses Premier Gentiloni – must look towards the South. If the biggest military alliance in history does not do so, then it risks not being on top of the challenges we face today”. Nato is getting its ship in order to look once again to the South just as when in 2011 it engaged in a war that put an end to the Libyan state.

Anoosha Boralessa
Il Manifesto (Italy)