Premier Matteo Renzi set off on a mission to Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal on Monday.
“If we want to fight poverty, uproot terrorism, and affirm shared values, Africa is our priority today,” he wrote on his website.
“We must do everything possible to make this planet more humane,” he said in the Nigerian capital of Abuja after meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Italy has neglected Africa for too long,” he said.
“International cooperation with Nigeria is a great priority…
Nigeria is a country full of resources and talent. We are here to discuss investments, but for me the most important thing are common values”.
To this end, Renzi told Buhari that Italy stands with Nigeria in its battle against Islamist terror group Boko Haram, which is responsible for a string of atrocities in northern Nigeria where it is trying to carve out its own state.
Voicing his condolences for a Boko Haram attack on Sunday that claimed 86 lives, including those of many children who were burned alive, Renzi said “we will destroy all forms of terrorism with determination”.
“We will back your leadership in the fight against terrorism,” Renzi told Buhari.
“Italy is with you, with your people, in the effort against the Boko Haram enemy”.
On the economic front, Renzi said Italy looks forward to economic collaboration with Nigeria in the energy, farming, logistics and infrastructure, and small and medium business sectors. “I consider the possibility of growth in energy and oil investments very positive – particularly with (Italian oil and gas giant) ENI – but also in infrastructure and logistics,” he said.
The two leaders agreed that “agriculture and small and medium businesses are a shared priority”, said Renzi. “They are a very important asset for Italy,” he explained.
At the end of the first leg of his Africa tour, Renzi reaffirmed his commitment to helping Nigerian migrants in their home country. “Most immigrants who arrive in Italy by boat are from Nigeria,” Renzi wrote on his Facebook page after leaving Abuja for Ghana.
“To the kind souls who say ‘let’s help them in their own homelands’ I say what we’re trying to do – but we do it by maintaining our sense of humanity, our values, and our ideals: this is Italy’s vocation”.
“We are departing Abuja for Ghana with a certainty,” the premier wrote. “Winning the challenge against extremism in Nigeria and in this part of Africa is decisive for the future of the whole planet. Italy is here,” the premier added. Renzi is due to end his Africa mission in Senegal.