22-07-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
In the last year and a half of restrictions, blockades and global slowdowns, Italy and Kenya have been lacking in connections, trade and especially in tourism, with consequent repercussions on the economy, employment and livelihood of many Kenyans.
But fortunately there are also some sectors that, despite the difficulties, have not stopped and continue their good practices and the development of existing projects.
One of these is undoubtedly the Italian cooperation in Kenya.
Malindikenya.net talks about this with Fabio Melloni, head of the Nairobi office of the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Melloni has extensive experience of the African continent. He has been director twice in Mozambique and once in Ethiopia and, in the past, responsible for coordinating humanitarian aid and cooperation activities in Africa.
"Kenya is my last stop before retirement - he reveals - and of a path of work and passion in this continent that began in Benin as a volunteer for an NGO and continued first with the United Nations and then with DCGS and AICS since 1991. Always in Africa, except for two "tough" brackets in Syria and Lebanon during the conflict between Israel and Lebanon.
Also because it is the final mandate, my intention is to complete all the programmes and I must say that we are well on our way".
Since taking office in Kenya, just a few months before the pandemic closed offices and slowed down the already cumbersome bureaucracy, Melloni has focused primarily on unblocking the many projects that were lying dormant or proceeding at a snail's pace.
"First of all we had to look at what worked before my arrival and base ourselves on those experiences - explains the owner of AICS in Kenya - there is no doubt that the pandemic has created some difficulties, but beyond the socio-economic discomforts, the biggest problem is the loss of "face to face" with our interlocutors. Constructive confrontations and solutions are born around the table, looking each other in the eye, responding and relaunching. I don't believe too much in virtual meetings: everyone speaks for himself and listens to the reports of others. That way there is no contradiction and certain fundamental relationships are not created. However, I am satisfied with the progress made so far, we are in a phase where, compared to the obstacles and bureaucratic difficulties, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And there are many projects in the pipeline. The 'Go Blue' initiative was recently launched on the coast, a development programme in the field of the Blue Economy financed by the European Union, the implementation of which has been entrusted to Italy, as well as Germany, Portugal and United Nations agencies.
"The part entrusted to Italy concerns an allocation of about 4.5 million euros for the development of the fishing and agricultural sectors and the creation of infrastructure - explains Melloni - the Italian Government, through AICS, will intervene in the counties of Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu with programmes to support the Beach Management Units, the community organisations that manage fishing activities at a territorial level, with the construction or improvement of infrastructures such as fish markets and facilities for conservation, distribution of fishing equipment and to encourage the production chain of seaweed".
Still on the coast, in Malindi, specifically in the Magarini district but outside the 'Go Blue' programme, a targeted intervention has been designed for the communities living where the Luigi Broglio Space Centre has been standing for more than 50 years.
In that area, which has always been identified with the Italian presence and the partnership with Kenya at a scientific and technological level," explains Melloni, "we are ready to start, with credit funds granted by Italy, with a series of interventions of social importance that include, in addition to the asphalt road that will connect the Malindi-Lamu highway to the Space Centre, the construction of schools and health centres. These are the projects that are closest to being unblocked and could act as pathfinders for all the others scattered around the country".
These include important support for environmental protection, with the construction of a modern waste disposal plant that will solve the problems of the Kajado dump, plus many other minor projects.
"For years now - recalls the Kenyan director of AICS - Italy, like other countries, has decided to convert Kenya's debt into development programmes. The balance is certainly very positive with over 130 projects in the field of education, health, water supply and roads. More social interventions in the slums and in small local realities where it is easier to identify critical issues and work with communities to achieve concrete results'.
Lastly, there is the 'gift' funding, which concerns projects of complete socio-economic support, such as the business accelerators (over EUR 3 million in funding, thanks also to partnerships with the Catholic University of Milan, ENI and ENEL.
"We have also financed a programme to support the coffee supply chain," reveals Melloni, "through a call for tenders financed entirely by the Cooperation, which will activate a group of Italian NGOs in the area to optimise production and improve the quality of the product of Kenyan farmers in seven counties in central-eastern Kenya.
If all goes well, Fabio Melloni and his staff will not be bored for the next two years, pandemic and bureaucracy permitting.
I am appreciating the government's efforts to streamline processes and oil institutional mechanisms, ensuring more transparency," concludes the experienced executive. "I trust in the will and dynamism of the new generations of Kenyans who, especially in the private and business sectors, have shown a great desire to do and grow and continue to intrigue me with their content and the enthusiasm with which they transform them into concrete projects that deserve to be supported. As long as Kenya has this strength, there will be hope and it will be natural for AICS to come alongside and support them".
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