Mr. Under Secretary-General,
Ms. Letizia Moratti,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to join my voice in welcoming you all to this special occasion as well as thank the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa, and friend, Maged Abdelaziz, for his interesting remarks and all the partners that have organized this event with us: the Office of the African Union, Ambassador Tete Antonio, the Special Envoy on Youth, UNWOMEN, Ms. Lakshimi Puri and the Permanent Missions of Kenya and Ghana, Ambassador Martha Pobee, and, most of all, Ms Letizia Moratti and E4Impact, without which this event would have not been possible.
When Nelson Mandela spoke of Africa, he called it “a region that has vast, untapped potential”. Indeed, Italy sees Africa as a land of opportunity that will take on a leading role in the XXI Century, precisely by virtue of this untapped potential – in particular of youth and women. Only a few days ago, we organized in Rome the Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference (an initiative that we will be repeating every two years), where we placed at the center of debate the issue of Africa’s sustainable development in terms of peace and security; economic growth; environment and migration.
In this context, Italy – which by its geography, history and culture, is a natural bridge between Africa and Europe – is ready to do its part, to create economic opportunities and employment, with special attention to the empowerment of young people and women. With 38 billion Euros in trade, we are ranked 6th/7th among trade partners. In a few years our trade will grow by approximately 5%. Our companies – that bring with them a business model based on cooperation with local partners – are participating – and will continue to do so – in our strategy for Africa. On the trail of our experience at Expo Milano, they will contribute to its food security, to the integration of African agriculture into global value chains, to improving health services, to training and creating job opportunities especially, as I said, for youths and women.
In this field, the experience of E4Impact, a project of an Italian businesswoman and former Mayor of the City of Milan and former Minister, Ms. Letizia Moratti, is extraordinary and could be explored and followed as an example for other companies that would like to create innovative partnerships with African stakeholders. E4Impact Foundation is a partnership between the University of the Sacred Heart (Milan) and major Italian companies, with the goal of establishing a Pan-African University Alliance for the training and coaching of impact entrepreneurs. Last May, the African Union Commission, represented by its Chairperson H.E. Dr. Zuma, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the E4Impact Foundation for collaboration on initiatives promoting inclusive quality education, such as entrepreneurship training, education for sustainable development, and university capacity building.
Today we will hear from the voices of young entrepreneurs – the “champions” of this program – on how they could benefit from this initiative and how they have been “empowered” and have become successful businesspersons.
Let me conclude by saying that the current youth population is the largest ever. 1.8 billion people. Many of them live in Africa. According to the latest UN statistics, by 2100 the African continent will be home to 4.4 billion people. An explosion of youth unknown in any other part of the world. This represents, of course, both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge if they fail to find a place in the society, an opportunity in terms of greater productivity, higher incomes, and in terms of promotion of innovation and entrepreneurialism. But to be an opportunity, and not a challenge, it is essential to create economic possibilities for the new generations now.
The African continent is changing rapidly. Italy wishes to put its technological knowledge, its economic experience, its tradition in education, and its universities at the disposal of Africa. So we would like to say to African students, to African entrepreneurs, Italy will be by your side, as the E4Impact experience shows.
I thank you.