Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged western officials on Thursday not to let China overrun Africa, and said more needs to be done by America and Europe to help the continent develop.
"We can't consider Africa as the second Chinese continent," Gentiloni said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "I have nothing against the fact that China is investing a lot in Africa. I am only saying that we should do perhaps our part more strongly."
Italy has a more direct interest in African stability than most European nations, as its proximity to North Africa has made it a gateway for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing north from the continent. Gentiloni wants the G-7 — a forum of the leading industrialized western democracies — to expand foreign aid and trade agreements with struggling African nations, a move that could have significant humanitarian and foreign policy implications.
"We can't forget this continent," he said. "They will have 2 billion inhabitants in 2040, and 2040 is tomorrow. And they have enormous resources, but a very complicated level of services. There are enormous potentialities. For example, renewable energies in Africa, is agriculture, food security."
That could be a point of disagreement between Gentiloni and President Trump, who has proposed major cuts to the State Department and foreign aid budgets. "I think clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past – and particularly in this past year – is simply not sustainable," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in March.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed deep skepticism of those cuts, however, with some pointing out a particular need to assist African countries suffering from famines of biblical proportions. "[M]illions of innocent people will starve to death without concerted and urgent action in the coming weeks," a group of ten senators wrote to Tillerson last month.