Eritrea does not want Italy’s money, assistance or aid, but “Italian investments” because we have always been the route of entry for Italy in the Horn of Africa and we believe we have many opportunities for Italian companies, not only to work in the Eritrean market, but also to settle in Eritrea and then expand in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf countries.
This is what Yemane Gebreab, adviser to the Eritrean President told askanews during a visit to Rome.
In 2014, the former Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli had been on a visit to Asmara to “activate a cooperation on all sectors of mutual interest in the face of the massive arrival of Eritrean migrants on the Italian coast.
But, according to the Eritrean authorities, once Pistelli left the his position, “he stopped everything.”
Last October, the Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed had told askanews: “We are cooperating with the EU, Germany and other European countries, but not with Italy … [because] Italy does not want to partner with Eritrea and we do not know why.”
To stem the flight of its young people from the country, the Eritrean government has focused on job creation, calling on the support of Europe.
In January 2016, the EU announced aid of 200 million euro in favor of Eritrea in the fight against poverty and for the socio-economic development of the country, through the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) for the period 2014-2020.
In September 2016, the Eritrean authorities signed a memorandum of cooperation with Germany aimed precisely at creating job opportunities for young people through vocational training; and in December 2016, through the Africa Fund, created in 2015 Malta, the EU has allocated 13 million euro, to which Berlin has added three more, for a project to support the development of small and medium enterprises through training courses for young people.
If in 2015 there were over 36,000 Eritrean migrants arrived on Italian shores, from the beginning of 2017 to June 30 last year, the Italian interior ministry recorded only 2,690 Eritreans.
“The Eritrean arrivals numbers are declining dramatically due to changes taking place in the country,” said Yemane. “But for us, we are a small country, any number of Eritreans want to leave the country is too big, even if these are small numbers”.
“If the numbers have dropped,” he added, “because we are offering young people training, the employment situation is improving, the economy is growing and also young people are becoming aware of the situation in Europe. First thought that life in Europe was easy, they would have succeeded, but now they know that life in Europe is difficult, they spend months and months in the shelters.”
“We want to promote Italian investments in Eritrea, we want Italian entrepreneurs working in Eritrea, we want Italians to come and visit Eritrea in larger numbers, we want Italian professionals to come to Eritrea,” said Yemane.
“We are not interested Italy’s money, we do not assistance, nor aid. What we want is to develop a partnership that will bring back Italy in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf in a massive way. And the natural entry point for Italy is Eritrea. This is what we are trying to promote in terms of the idea of thinking. And we do not want to talk only to the government but also with the Italian company, with the business community and with the academic world.”
Yemane has recalled the “very close relations between Italy and Eritrea, historical and cultural” stressing that Eritrea was Italian colony until World War II. He wants “to build relations between the two peoples, between their university worlds, develop all forms of cooperation with Italy”.
But according to the Adviser of the Eritrean President, in Italy there is still “no awareness” of how Eritrea will be important for Italy. And as long as there is no such awareness, I do not think it will change anything in the relations between the two countries.
* Software translation from Italian language.