How Italy is helping African migrants help their homeland

EPA/MAURIZIO DEGL' INNOCENTI

African migrants from Somalia protest in front of the prefecture in Florence, Italy, 12 January 2017.

How Italy is helping African migrants help their homeland


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To ease the economic pressures driving hundreds of thousands of migrants to Italy’s southern shores, Rome’s foreign ministry has unveiled a programme under which business people with African roots are offered financing to pursue job-creating projects in their countries of origin.

Italy’s centre-left government says Europe must do more to create the kind of opportunities that will keep ambitious young Africans at home.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the business scheme is being launched at a time when Italy has faced criticism from humanitarian organisations over the main plank of its strategy to end the migrant crisis: stopping trafficker boats from leaving Libya.

“The resources of the African diaspora [in Italy] have been hugely under-estimated,” says Marco Santori, chairperson of the Etimos Foundation, one of the organisations involved in the fledgling “Migraventure” scheme.

“And that has been neglected in recent years when the focus has been on saving lives and helping those migrants who have reached Italy.”

According to AFP, Migraventure has approved 10 initial projects, ranging from a film school to a fish farm via a number of organic agriculture ventures. Each project will receive up to €30,000 from the foreign ministry.

The fish farm project in Cameroon, for instance, is the brainchild of Le Jeune Noubi, a 31-year-old medical student in Florence.

“The programme enabled me to reduce the amount I had to put into the project myself and reduce my exposure to risk,” he told AFP. “As far as I can see, what Africa really needs is jobs and economic development.”

Meanwhile, film producer Pierre Sonna, who came to Italy in 2009 to study cinema, is setting up a school for film technicians in Douala, Cameroon.

“The country is undergoing the transition to digital and we are short of skilled people,” he said.

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