Italy to East Africa: We are here to invest and help expand industries

Posted on : Monday , 29th September 2014

 Italy rarely, if ever, features on the list of countries with a big presence in the East African region. Not anymore. Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance was in Kigali and spoke to The EastAfrican’s BERNA NAMATA on the renewed interest in the region.

There is growing interest from Italy — we recently launched the Italy-African initiative to intensify ties and facilitate economic integration between the Italian economy and African economies. 
I’m very interested in the process of integration in East Africa – it is a fascinating experiment. What we know in Europe about integration is that it is a powerful driver of growth and it is taking place within economies that are already doing very well.  My expectation is that with further integration this boost will continue. This will also be instrumental in facilitating integration of the African economy into the global economy.  It is important that this is about trade and investment as well as monetary integration.
Italian companies are looking for opportunities for investment and market expansion. They are also flexible enough to integrate in the economies of East Africa, which are not only integrating but also transforming themselves. Italian companies have diverse expertise including investment tools, machinery and high value added goods. They can make the best of dynamic expansionary situations because of their specific comparative advantage — they are keen on doing this.
Dynamic Italian companies are, for instance, specialised in machine tools so any process of industrial transformation would benefit from intermediate and capital goods coming in from those companies. But they are also capable of transferring management and production technology based on ICT that can be applied to African companies.
Let me add that Italian companies also have a comparative advantage in energy sources, especially renewable energy, which could be of interest. 
One thing that can help this process would be to know more about the characteristics of the integration process and to learn more about this part of the world.
There are a number of lessons – one is that having a good integration of the real side of the economy in terms of labour markets, business environment so that companies can easily reallocate resources, will make the monetary union much stronger.
It is also important to design macroeconomic rules and institutions in a way that allows convergence in a gradual but precise way. If the target is to form a monetary union, then ensure fiscal sustainability and growth at the same time.

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