Ambassador Giuseppe Mistretta, Director for Africa at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation IS well known in Ethiopia and Africa. He served as an ambassador in Ethiopia, as well as to the African Union, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as well as Djibouti and South Sudan during his tenure until few months back. After departing Ethiopia he is now serving as to connect his country to the whole of Africa. Capital met him at Bari, Italy during the Agrilevante 2017 fair. The fair is dedicated to machines, plants and technologies for agriculture, and is an important event in the field of agriculture, not only for the central and southern Italy, but for the entire Mediterranean basin, Europe and Africa. The fifth edition of the Agrilevante biennial exposition ended on October 15, 2017, with the registration of an ongoing increase shown in the exhibiting manufacturers, in the internationalization of the event and the number of initiatives on cultural points and the dissemination of knowledge on technical issues. He talks about how African countries could benefit from the event. Excerpts;
Capital: What is the significance of this fair?
Ambassador Giuseppe Mistretta: This is a very important fair for agricultural machines, not only in Italy of course but also for export. We in the congress are talking about the possibility of exporting our technology and our products such as our fertilizers and our machines to countries in Africa.
Of course this must be seen as a plan or program in which the government, the trade offices, the associations are all together in order to try to tackle the challenge of creating jobs in Africa, the re-launching of agriculture in Africa and this is the main interest of the Italian firms and Italian associations in the sector.
Capital: How are you coping with funds?
Ambassador Mistretta: Funds have always been difficult; the financing has been the most difficult. You know there is big financing from the European Union; Italy is part of the European Union so 13 percent of the contribution to the European Union comes from our country and this is huge in terms of financing. Then there are the national contributions; Italy has a very strong cooperation for development in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the second beneficiary of our cooperation after Afghanistan.
Recently when I was Ambassador to Ethiopia, I signed an agreement for three years of cooperation. From 2017 to 2019, for 125 million Euros which is a big amount of money. And then there is the private sector which is very interested, through the banks, financial institutions, to contribute to the development of Agriculture in Africa, not only agriculture, but this congress was about agriculture.
Capital: Are you planning to set up private entities and companies to work together in Ethiopia?
Ambassador Mistretta: Yes, we have a trade office in Addis Ababa which is part of our embassy which is very active in organizing fairs in Italy for Ethiopians to come and visit events like this. For Italians there are the Ethiopian general fairs so our trade office is very busy in different sectors such as agriculture, machines and in constriction. I am confident that we, after spending 40 years in Africa and especially in Ethiopia, that we did a good job.
Capital: How was the trade relationship between Ethiopia and Italy during your time there?
Ambassador Mistretta: Well, it had increased, now it is about 360 million Euros. Comparing with other countries in Africa it is the fourth or fifth best trade relationship. Of course we would like to increase it, I know the attention of the Ethiopian authorities is not to really that much on trade but on investment.
They want our investment in Ethiopia, there are good companies from Italy in Ethiopia like Salini, Italfair which is a railway company and so on. We invest good money in the country. It seems now, according to statistics Italy is the third biggest investor in Africa after China and another country. In any case it seems we are really growing our investment on the continent.