Kenya has urged the Italian government to open up markets for African produce and support nascent peace programmes, as a long-term solution to the problem of illegal migration.
Mr Ababu Namwamba, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Administrative Secretary, told a forum in Rome on Thursday that the Italian government can work with African countries to address the root causes that force migrants into dangerous travels across the Mediterranean.
“Italy can open her markets to Kenyan and African products and it can support African growth as the most sustainable approach to stemming the stream of [illegal] immigrants”, Mr Namwamba said.
He spoke at the Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference at Farnesina, the headquatres of the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome where he argued that only a shared prosperity will guarantee global stability.
Here, he told the audience that countries like Italy can support Africa’s programmes like AU’s vision of integrating the continent’s 1.2 billion through the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), as well as stabilisation programmes such as the peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as the agreement in South Sudan.
“Africa’s mega youth bulge bears unlimited possibilities for growth if appropriately harnessed; the continent is on a supremely positive trajectory of democratisation and stabilisation as evidenced by multiple peaceful political transitions,” he said.
But the conference, a meeting of Italian government officials and Foreign ministers from Africa, representatives of the African Union and a dozen international organisations in Africa came against the backdrop of dangerous numbers of illegal migrants.
Often escaping poverty or other hardships in Africa, they have used dangerous routes in the Sahara Desert and rickety boats in the Mediterean sea. According to the UN High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), Italy and Spain have been the biggest recipients of these refugees and migrants, often coming from Tunisia, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and sometimes Somalia.
In 2017, Italy received 119,000 migrants, smuggled by traffickers through the dangerous corridors and the sea. This represented two thirds of the numbers that arrived into the European Union zone.
Last year, the European Union started engaging African governments to start programmes meant to create income opportunities for the youth. Those programmes haven’t picked up, but the UNHCR report for September showed the numbers have reduced.
Ahead of the conference, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Enzo Moavero Milanesi had said the meeting will be opportunity for “structured dialogue” with African leaders on issues affecting the two.
“We are strongly determined to tackle the issues and opportunities offered by our traditional age-old friendship and evident geopolitical ties in tackling these issues and opportunities in a relationship genuinely based on cooperation and a fruitful mutual exchange,” Milanesi said in a statement.
Mr Namwamba said Italy must realign their partnership model of Africa to be in line with the continent’s own Agenda 2063 where integration, peace and prosperity are targets by 2063.
Italy, one of Kenya’s main tourism markets, signed a non-double taxation agreement with Kenya in 2016.
At the time, National Treasuy CS Henry Rotich said deal is set to create a conducive environment for investments, trade in goods and services between the two countries by removing uncertainties on taxation occasioned by having two different jurisdictions at play.
But Kenya’s exports to Italy are a third of what it buys there. In 2014, for instance, the trade deficit was Sh14 billion, favouring Rome.