Italian companies have been increasing their presence on the African continent in recent years.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Italy’s foreign direct investment (FDI) grew to €28 billion in 2018. This makes Italy the sixth largest global investor in Africa after France, Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, and China.
While Italy’s focus seems to be on North Africa, its two main recipients of FDI were South Africa ($4.5bn) and Nigeria ($1.3bn) last year.
Eni symbolises Italy’s presence
The partially state-owned (30%) hydrocarbon firm, Eni has significantly boosted Italy’s position in the rankings. It makes the largest FDI contributions in Africa compared to any other Italian company.
The group has also become a major gas player thanks to the rise of the Egyptian mega-field in Zohr.
Half of Eni’s global production and 60% of its reserves come from 14 countries in Africa. Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) in Ghana, is one of the company’s key projects on the continent, according to Eni spokesperson, Marilia Cioni.
Other Italian companies are trying to play catch-up with Eni.
Under CEO Francesco Starace, Enel Green Power has become one of Africa’s leading private operators in renewable energy.
Enel operates in South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and Zambia. It recently launched the RES4Africa Foundation – a platform for training, technical assistance, and expertise.
Another Italian company, Terna manages high-voltage electricity transmission networks.
Energy at the heart of Italian investment in Africa
Terna has partnered with Tunisia’s gas and electricity group, Steg to deliver a major 600 MW trans-Mediterranean electricity interconnection project called Elmed. The project will link the networks of the two countries.
Another Italian firm, Salini Impregilo – which builds hydroelectric power plants and hydraulic structures – operates in more than 50 countries. Over the past 70 years, the company has boosted its presence across Africa.