The head of Italy's state-controlled natural gas importer, Eni, has announced the company's intention to increase investments in Africa as Rome seeks to develop stronger economic and political ties with the continent

Speaking last weekend at a conference in Rome organized by the Brothers of Italy party, whose leader, Giorgia Meloni, has been prime minister since October of last year, Claudio Descalzi of Eni said, 'Italy is ready to invest in Africa [...] this is also a necessity because energy is now flowing from south to north and we need to be the ones guiding this flow for our sake and for Africa’s sake.

Meloni has previously expressed her ambitions to make Italy one of the central energy hubs in Europe under the 'Mattei Plan,' a proposed initiative of investment in African countries and 'equal and beneficial' partnerships across the continent

The plan involves Italy constructing new pipelines to North Africa that would allow Rome to export natural gas and hydrogen to northern European countries such as Germany and Austria, making Italy the 'gateway' between Europe and Africa. The Mattei Plan would also have the additional strategic advantage of helping Europe diversify away from Russian oil and gas exports

The Italian government initially hoped to formally launch the program in November; however, this was delayed due to the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza, raising fears of disruption in international energy markets

As a sign of how central Africa is to her foreign policy and economic agenda, Meloni's first bilateral visit upon becoming prime minister was to Algeria, followed by trips across the region to Libya, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. In October, she also traveled to Mozambique and the Republic of Congo in the hope of strengthening energy and economic ties between the countries

Descalzi's comments come shortly after Eni announced plans to invest over $7 billion in Egypt and around $8 billion in Libya. The company has also launched several 'agri-hubs' in various African countries that will grow seeds for biofuel production

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