Maputo — The Italian government believes that Mozambique, because of its conditions for social and economic development and political stability, may become a strategic gateway to a stronger Italian economic presence in Southern Africa.
Italy's Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Adolfo Urso, speaking to reporters in Maputo on Tuesday, after a meeting with Mozambican Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, explained that this is why a delegation of Italian business people is currently visiting Mozambique.
They hope to identify potential cooperation areas with Mozambican business partners. The Italians, claimed Urso, are particularly interested in investing in areas such as agriculture, agro-industry, tourism, energy, and in helping respond to the food and fuel crisis.
Urso said that this mission is bringing concrete investment projects, taking into account that Italy is the biggest exporter of agricultural equipment in Europe, and the second in the world, which may contribute to improved productivity in Mozambican agriculture and to the transfer of technologies.
"We think that Mozambique may be the best gateway to step up Italian and European economic presence in Southern Africa", said Urso. "So we have started a development plan to step up trade relations between Italy and Mozambique".
Diogo said that Italy has stood beside Mozambique in some of the most important moments of its history, recalling in particular the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in Rome, on 4 October 1992, which ended the war of destabilization.
She said that the coming of these business people to Mozambique to identify investment opportunities represents the reactivation of economic relations between the two countries. She warned that these relations do not always depend on the will of the governments, but on the capacity of the business community and their approach to other markets.
When he met with the 70 strong Italian delegation on Tuesday morning, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, invited them to invest in reactivating Mozambican industry, particularly in the southern city of Matola, where factories, such as the giant Texlom textile plant, which once employed thousands of workers, are now silent and abandoned.
Fernando declared that the government is working strongly to establish favourable conditions for foreign businesses to invest in Mozambique. All the ingredients were present "which, if correctly exploited, will allow the creation of business and development opportunities", he said.
In addition to reviving abandoned factories, Fernando wanted to see "solid partnerships" between Mozambican and Italian business people in developing small and medium companies, particularly for "rural industrialization", as part of the government's drive to transform the rural districts into poles of development.
Also on Monday, the Mozambican state owned fuel company Petromoc signed an agreement with the Italian Moncada Energy Group, and a Mozambican services company, 3T Servicos Lda, to set up a new agro-industrial undertaking intended to produce vegetable oil and biodiesel.
This undertaking involves an investment of 15 million US dollars in Manhica district, about 90 kilometres north of Maputo. In the new company being formed, Moncada holds 70 per cent of the shares, Petromoc 26 per cent, and 3T Servicos four per cent.
After the signing, Petromoc director Casimiro Francisco said this agreement represented the launch of business relations between Mozambique and Italy "in a new area which is undergoing great expansion - that of renewable sources of energy, particularly biofuels".
Mozambique had vast potential in this area "and to develop that potential we are linking up with an Italian group that is very strong in renewable energy". Advancing in this field "will make a great contribution to the development of the country", declared Francisco.
He added that the project will be developed in modules, each one occupying 10,000 hectares. "We shall first undertake research into the most favourable and highest yielding crops for each of the regions identified for the production of vegetable oil and biodiesel and then we shall take the appropriate decisions", he said.