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Jun 13, 2024, 4:27pm EDT
net zeroafricabusinessEurope
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Semafor Signals

Meloni’s G7 sustainable food plan faces political, financial gridlock

Insights from the European Centre for Development Policy Management, Ecco, and African Arguments

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Giorgia Meloni
REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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The News

The Italian government is priming a new climate and foreign policy initiative focused on sustainable food at this week’s G7 summit in Puglia.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Apulia Food Security Initiative — the specifics of which aren’t yet available — would prioritize food security in Africa by investing in sustainable farming and agriculture. The plan is based on similar proposals from last year’s United Nations’ COP28 climate conference that acknowledged the carbon footprint of food production for the first time.

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The initiative could give Meloni a greater hand in global affairs, but domestic political and financial headwinds threaten its implementation.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

To lead Europe’s foreign policy, Meloni must include Africa

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Sources:  
Al Jazeera, Ecco, African Arguments

With her growing influence in Europe, Meloni has positioned Italy to be “the new European face in Africa,” as firms take increasing interest in the mineral and resource-rich continent, according to a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations. But her approach so far seems “centered on investment rather than development,” Al Jazeera noted. At COP28 last year, Meloni said that redefining the Italian-Africa relationship had to go beyond “charity.” To do that, African farmers must be “treated as equal project partners rather than mere beneficiaries,” an analyst wrote for the Italian think tank Ecco, since African agriculture is among the most at risk from climate change.

Europe’s sustainable food initiatives crumble under far-right pressure

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Sources:  
European Centre for Development Policy Management, Politico, NPR

While re-centering the conversation on Africa is the right step for the world as a whole, “it’s not that European food systems are fully sustainable,” ECDPM analyst Cecilia D’Alessandro at the European Centre for Development Policy Management think tank told Semafor. It’s not that the EU hasn’t tried but many of its initiatives have been scrapped after huge farmer protests shook countries across the continent. The few policies that remain — like satellite monitoring of crop production — still anger farmers who may be swayed to the far right, NPR noted.

Agricultural investment isn’t as risky as some banks make it seem

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Sources:  
Istituto Affari Internazionali, European Centre for Development Policy Management

Financing Meloni’s project will be one of the biggest challenges for the G7, analyst Cecilia D’Alessandro wrote for the Istituto Affari Internazionali. To get financial institutions and banks on board, “it’s a matter of showing them that [agriculture] is not as risky as they think it is,” she told Semafor. Banks are concerned about their financial return, which is why they tend to be more eager to fund a few big infrastructure projects as opposed to several small-to-medium size farms. The G7 needs to convince financial institutions that long-term social and environmental returns — such as avoiding climate catastrophes — are equally, if not more, important than short-term financial gains, D’Alessandro said.

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