Advances in Historical Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.4, 185-193
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 185
Italy and Mozambique: Science, Economy & Society within a
History of an Anomalous Cooperation
Luca Bussotti1, Antonella De Muti2
1Centro de Estudos Internacionais ISCTE-I UL, Lisbon, Portugal
2Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Email: Lbiau@iscte .pt,
Received November 18th, 2013; revised December 19th, 2013; accepted December 26th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Luca Bussotti, Antonella De Muti. This is an open access article distributed under the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any me-
dium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License
all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Luca Bussotti, An-
tonella De Muti. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a g u a rdian.
In this article the authors aim at showing how an “anomalous” international and very intense cooperation
between Italy and Mozambique was born. In fact, Italy has not a strong colonial tradition, especially in
Mozambique, so it seems interesting to try to understand the reason why this former Portuguese colony
has become the Italian most important partner in its cooperation activity. This analysis is based on the
main hypothesis related to the birth of international bilateral cooperation: they have been seriously
considered in order to explain the origin of this strange relationship, but they cannot completely clarify
this particular case. According to the Italian social and political recent history, the privileged relationship
with Mozambique is due more to a “bottom up” process than to geo-strategic or economic reasons. The
fact that Mozambique had belonged to a weak Western power such as Portugal certainly gave Italy the
opportunity to penetrate more easily in this country than in the ones which had been under the strong
dominion of France or England. One of the most important results of this “anomalous” cooperation has to
be found in the scientific fields (such as geology, architecture, biotechnologies) and in its impact on the
development of Mozambique.
Keywords: Italy; Mozambique; Bilateral Cooperation; Origins; Comparative History; Institutions; Science;
Economy & Society
This study aims at understanding why and through which
modalities the cooperative relationship between Mozambique
and Italy has taken its exceptional character and lasting com-
Even though its first cooperation Act was only pass ed in 1979,
Italy got involved in cooperation activity with Mozambique
since the years of the liberation struggle and the period imme-
diately after the independence of this former Portuguese colony
Indeed, it seems difficult to explain how such an intense rela-
tionship was born, since even the brief Italian colonial experi-
ence was far from being in Mozambiq ue, having concent rated, at
the level of sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Ethiopia and So-
malia. However, Mozambique is, up to now, the favorite desti-
nation of the official development assistance (ODA) from Italy,
the eighth world power.
The answer to such a question, in fact, appears to be substan-
tially different from the one that can be given for the European
countries with strong colonial traditions. Actually they estab-
lished, in Africa as elsewhere, “natural” cooperation relations
with the newly independent countries because of the previous
ties to their former political domains. This has resulted, in the
majority of cases, in extensive partnerships. Let’s consider, for
example, F rance, whos e former c olonies have been influ enced in
financial, monetary, cultural, economic a n d e v en military terms,
as recently demonstrated by the case of Mali. As Gabas pointed
out, the priority of France cooperation has always been to es-
tablish a “Francophony-Africa-Mediterrean trio”; its image con-
tinues to be that of a country strictly linked to its colonial past
(Gabas, 2005: 249). The relationships between the UK and its
former african colonies were based, for a long time, on the
“imperial” Britannic vision; even after decolonization, during
the 1950s and 1960s, “the prevailing economic models empha-
sized investments” (Paquement, 2010). Much more prob-
lematic have been the relationships between Portugal and PA-
LOP (Moita, 1985; Ferre ira, 1994), Spai n and Equatorial G uinea
(Velloso, 2007), Belgium and Congo (Gerard-Libois, 1970;
Vanthemsche, 2012).
Nothing similar can b e said as regards Italy, substantially free
of a colonial past, and whose foreign politics have always been
characterized by a sort of “international equilib rium” between its
Atlantic position (NATO membership and close relations with
the USA), the European and Mediterranean vocation and the
search for a dialogue between Israel and Palestine (Puri Purini).
These options changed in 2001, when Berlusconi and his Gov-
ernment made stronger relations with Bush’s Unites States and
Putin’s Russia, reducing his commitment in Euro pe. The African
perspective has never been a priority for Italian Government.
In recent years Berlusconi has developed a favoured relation
with Ghaddafi and, in the Middle East, with Israel, instead of
encouraging the dialogue with the Palestinians.
For this reason, the answer to the basic question about why
Mozambique is the main objective of Italian ODA, will also
allow us to reject models that are, perhaps, too often taken for
granted, but that cannot apply to the case here analyzed. The
reference is to that model of the international Western coopera-
tion with the dev elopi ng countries, first of all the A me ri ca n on e,
whose key features are rooted in the European Recovery Pro-
gram (ERP) or Marshall Plan. The ERP was launched immedi-
ately after the Second World War in order “to help” those
European Countries (such as Italy) whose industrial apparatus
had been dramatically destroyed and which had to enter the
forum of “democratic” nations (Truman doctrine). The same
principles—economic growth and democratization, according
with a “top-down” approach and an accentuated bilateralism
instead of multilateralism—oriented the birth and the goals of
USAID (created in 1961), a powerful “Cold War” instrument
against the Soviet Union in the area of developing countries.
Despite clear differences, the politics of international coopera-
tion carried out by the European Countries most engaged in this
activity (the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, etc.) have to be em-
bedded in th e same globalized conte xt, in which the principles of
Western democracy and free market had to constitute the new
pillars of the former European colonies in Asia and Africa. For
these reasons this kind of cooperation has been the target of
several criticisms over the years, almost all of them from the
point of view opposite to the liberal conception, or even of
Marxist tendency, from the Dependency Theory to the current
positions of an economist like Jeffrey Sachs (Frank, 1966;
Cardoso & Faletto, 1979; Amin, 1977; Grieco, 1988; Sacks,
Through this research we get to the conclusion that other
channels have been used to develop the special relationship
between Italy and Mo z ambique. Thi s is due to three key factors:
first, the permanent pressure from the Italian “civil society” on
its politicians; second—paradoxically—the lack of a clear Ital-
ian strategy in its international and African politics which al-
lowed the acceptance—from a political perspective—of Mo-
zambique as the priority country for international Italian coop-
eration. Finally, a geo-political reason, since Mozambique had
been colonized by a weak European power such as Portugal,
which, on its leaving, left a vacuum in which the Italian ambi-
tions were able to fit . So, it is pos sible to say that , the building of
bilateral relations between Italy and Mozambique was initially
rooted in “informal” mechanisms, and only subsequently was
institutionalized at a formal level.
This article consists of three parts: in the first, a summary of
the main lines of the developm ent of t he Italian co operation bo th
in general and with Mozambique will be presented, accompa-
nied by essential statistical data; in the second, we will try to
formulate hypothesis in order to understand why Italy chose
Mozambique as its main cooperation partner; finally, we will
show the conclusion of our research.
In terms of methodology, the research has been based on a
number of sources: the official ones, published by the Italian
Foreign Ministry, the archives of the Ministry itself in Rome,
testimonies on the birth of th e cooperati on relations hips between
the two countries (on the Italian side as well as th e Mozambican),
the available bibliography, though not too wide.
Mozambique in the Italian Cooperation
The Birth of Italian International Cooperati on
After the end of the Second World War, Italy was in quite
difficult conditions. The Country had to be almost completely
rebuilt, especially in the North, where the largest part of its
industrial apparatus was concentrated. So, from 1945 to 1960,
the efforts of the Italian politics were focused on internal targets
more than on foreign policy. Moreover we have to remember
that Italy was a “losing power”, and had a low international
credibility. In addition to this, according to the reasons above
mentioned, Italy entered NATO in 1949 notwhistanding the hard
political battles led by the Communist and the Socialist Parties
inside and outside the Parliament, and only in 1955 joined the
United Nations. It is now easier to understand the reason why,
differently from w hat happene d f or the oth er Euro pean pow erful
States, Italy began to deal with cooperation with developing
countries very late.
The first steps of the Italian Government in the international
cooperation were 1) to manage the relations with Somalia, a
former colony, of which Rome had had the fiduciary admini-
stration until 1960; 2) The approval of two laws (the No.
1033/1966 and the No. 75/1970) regarding the international
volunteer service, with the aim to give technical assistance to
developing Countries; 3) The approval of the Law 1222/1971,
the first specifically directed to the international cooperation,
with a budget of 50 billion liras in 5 years. Once more, it was no t
a law dealing with all the aspects of international cooperation,
but an act which aimed at regulating the activity and the legal
status of public servants working in the technical cooperation
with the developing countries, giving special provisions to So-
malia. According to Gallizioli, because of the lack of a clear
strategy of its international (and African) politics, 80% of the
budget went to fatten the bureaucracy of the international or-
ganizations. Between 1971 and 1979 the private fluxes for In-
ternational cooperation overcame the public ones (Gallizioli,
This first phase of the Italian international cooperation was
characterized by a total confusion in terms of institutional
competence: the funds for Somalia administration were man-
aged by four ministries and the Italian Central Bank. The total
budget for Somal ia was of 90 billion lir as (about 50 million euro)
in the 1950s and of 60 billion liras in the following decade. The
confusion can be explained by the fact that Italy hadn’t decided
yet whether to include this activity inside the structure of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs or to create an external agency.
A new phase began with the approval of the law 38/1979,
following to which a Department for the Cooperation to De-
velopment was creat ed with in th e Ministr y of Foreign Affairs. It
is possible to affirm that the 1980s were the “Golden Age” of
international Italian cooperation.
The last phase began with the approval of the law 49/1987,
which stated that the cooperation for development was part of
Italian foreign policy ( art. 1). In this period (1989 ), Italy reached
its maximum in terms of ODA (0.41% of the GNP), differently
from what was happening in the other European countries. The
increase of ODA, in percentage, was relevant, passing from
0.08% to 0.19% of GNP over the two first years of the 1980s,
reaching 0.35% i n 1984. In 2003 not even 0.20% of th e GNP was
invested in international cooperation, leaving Italy at the last
place in Europe and the second lowest position inside OSCE.
Open Access
This downward trend continued in the 2000s, when the budget
for the ODA pass ed from 732 million euro in 2008 to 86 in 2012 .
As the Minister for Cooperation and Integration, Andrea
Riccardi, said in December 2011:
The Italian aid for development is stagnant. We are far from
the European objective o f 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent of the UN.
Last year we reached a historic minimum (0.15 percent of GDP)
ending in second last place in the ranking of donors, only fol-
lowed by Korea. For 2012, the forecast is for a further de-
Italy started from these “institutio n al ” bases and didn’t h a v e a
clear strategy, but even though Mozambique has constantly
represented the priority country for the Italian international
cooperation. In o r der to explain the reason and the way in which
this “anomalous” cooperation has been improved along the years,
it is necessary to investigate outside the institutional level. The
hypothesis which can be formulated is conne cted with the abil ity
of the Italian “civil society” to influence the Italian government
at making the cooperation with Mozambique a priority in its
African politics.
The Position of Mozambique in the Italian ODA
After many years in which its resources were distributed to a
large number of countries, the Italian Cooperation accepted the
recommendations of the OSCE/DAC Peer Review 2004, Note
for programming guidelines 2007-20092, deciding to focus its
aid on the Sub-Saharan African countries and on those in post-
conflict situations (DAC, 2009). In addition, the various geo-
graphical areas were assigned two different levels of priority,
and the aid was addressed to the areas of health, education,
environment, alternative and renewable resources, public and
global good and gender equality ( DA C, 2009).
Mozambique, which has been assi gned priority level 1, has, so
far, firmly maintained the privileged position it has enjoyed
since its independence (Development CO, 2012).
From 1982 to 2009, this country received € 764 million in
grants and loans of which 105.9 million euro in aid credit; to
these figures it must be added the resources arising by debt
cancellation in 2002, amounting to 557.3 million euro (IDEM).
Mozambique has also been selected, the only one among all the
countries supported by the Italian Cooperation, for the imple-
mentation of a project for direct support to the state budget, the
Budget Support, and chosen, along with Vietnam, as the target
country for twinning business.
In the reports published by the Italian Cooperation, we read:
Over the past five years, the aid from the Italian Cooperation
in sub-Saharan Africa was more than 1000 million Euros, tar-
geted to interventions involving a total of 34 out of the 46
countries in the region. The main beneficiaries of the aid have
been Mozambique, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In 2010, about 54 million were released as gift (spread over
34 countries and recip ients) while 10 million euros were granted
in aid credit.
Mozambique was the largest recipient of Italian aid, with 21
million provided in 2010, followed by Somalia (10 million),
Ethiopia (8 million), Sudan (7,000,000). Other beneficiary
countries were Kenya, Uganda and Senegal3.
The action of the Italian Cooperation in Mozambique started
immediately after its indep endence and continu ed, without inter-
ruption, until the present day, despite relevant reductions.
Due to the development of its political-economic situation,
supported by its institutional stability, Mozambique seems to
represent a virtuous case in the much criticized system of inter-
national cooperation (Carrino, 2005), that was able, in this case,
to transform the emergency humanitarian aid (during the bloody
civil war that swept the country until 1992) in real development
cooperation (World Bank, 2008).
Mozambique always appears at the forefront of Italian ODA.
Tables 1 and 2 indicate the main Italian bilateral aid recipient
countries from the years 1987-1988 until the years 2008-2009,
from which it is evident its pr ivileged posit ion, similar, but often
even more favor ed than that of Ethi opia, a for mer Itali an co lony.
In recent years, following the evolution of the international
geopolitical frame in which the Italian interests are located, new
priorities have arisen as for the allocation of the resources. The
new situati on h a s led to th e dis pl acem en t of urg e nt in terventions
in conflict and crisis areas, especially after the changing of the
balance on the world stage, such as the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, the Balkan war (1991-1995) the Afghan conflict (2001)
and the Iraqi (2003-2011), the lasting instability on the Middle
East chessboard, the explosion of migration flows.
The “Strange” Birth of a Cooperative
Relationship: Hypothesis
The reason for such a l arge com mitm ent in men and r esou rces
of the Italian cooperation in that distant country in Sub-Saharan
Africa rises interesting questions, which we will try to answer
through the analysis of what the general motivation of the ODA
allocation are considered to be, trying to assess the extent to
which Mozam bique m eets the criter ia that are p lace d at th e bas is
of the interventions, categorized as follows (Isernia, 1995;
Raimondi/Antonelli, 2001):
1) geo-economic reasons: they presuppose economic impli-
cations resulting from the geographic proximity, as was the case
with the support of Italy in countr ies such as Albania, the former
Yugoslavia or the African Mediterranean countries;
2) political-economic reasons: they appear when an industri-
alized state does not intend to have relationships with a devel-
oping one for politi cal-ideo logical re asons (US coop eration with
some “rogue states” through Japan);
3) international political motivation: they arise from the
relevance of geo-politica l unstable ar eas or places of conflict that
represent a threat to world peace (see Iraq and Afghanistan);
4) post-colonial motivation: industrialized countries concen-
trate their aid in their former colonies, to help thei r growth;
1Conference in the occasion of the 40th anniversary of IPALMO, 1971-2001:
Ieri, oggi domani, quattro decenni di trasformazioni geo-economiche-poli-
tich”, speech by the Minister for International Cooperation and Integration
Andrea Riccardi, Rome December 12th, 2011.
http://www.integrazione.go v .it/ministro/discorsi/2011/12/confer enza-ipalmo
-anniversary.aspx, accessed January, 2012.
2DIPCO 14/2007 it i s the wee kly bulleti n of the DGC S (Genera l Direction for
Development Cooperation) in which all the resolutions of the general man-
ager and t h e executi v e committee, as well as n o t i ces , document s an d interna-
tional reports are recorded.
5) economic motivation: it is a form of cooperation from de-
3For information about the financial commitment of the Italian cooperation
for developm ent, se e: A . Ra imondi, G. Antone lli, op. ci t. S e e also the an nua l
reports on the implementation of the policy of development cooperation on
the site.
Open Access 187
Table 1.
Italian ODA (1987-1998) values expressed in millions of US dollars.
Countries Tot Countries Tot Countries Tot
1987/88 usd 1992/93 usd 1997/98 usd
Mozambique 266 Mozambique 195 Madagascar67
Somalia 268 Tanzania 199 Mozambique65
Ethiopia 233 China 166 Haiti 44
Tanzania 174 Egypt 141 Uganda 40
China 136 Argentina 144 Ethiopia 39
Tunisia 104 Tunisia 103 Malta 24
Sudan 97 Morocco 89 Albania 22
Egypt 94 Sierra Leone 100 Argentina 20
India 63 Ex Yugoslavia 91 Ecuador 20
Senegal 59 Albania 81 China 20
Source: Raimondi/Antonelli, 2001.
Table 2.
Italian ODA (2002-2009) values expressed in millions of US dollars.
Countries Tot Countries Tot Countries Tot CountriesTot
2002/03 usd 2006 usd 2007 usd 2008/09 usd
Mozambique 231 Nigeria 755 Iraq 480 Iraq 429
Rep Congo 225 Iraq 485 Morocco 83 Afghanistan92
Tanzania 67 Serbia 129 Ethiopia 105 Ethiopia 60
Ethiopia 48 Ethiopia 105 Lebanon 65 Palestine55
Tunisia 35 Cameroun 63 Afghanistan 62 Lebanon 48
Guinea Bis sau 35 Zambia 51 Sierra Leone 44 Albania 43
Afghanistan 33 Lebanon 44 Mozambique 43 Liberia 38
China 31 Afghanistan 32 China 42 Ivory Coast.34
A.N.P 26 Mozambique 30
St. Vincent
& Grenadine 41 Mozambique30
Albania Albania 30 Serbia 23 Sudan 27
Source: OSCE/DAC, Peer Review, Italy, various years.
veloped countries, aimed to achieve spec ific econom ic dividends,
especially favoring their own business in the underdeveloped
countries, and exploiting its natural resources.
In the case of the relationship Italy-Mozambique, the first
three points are evidently to be rejected a priori. We will focus,
therefore, on the last two, particularly on point 4.
Post-colonial reasons: In our opinion, a first, possible answer
for the massive Italian commitment in Mozambique can be
sought in the establishment of “political” non-governmental re-
lations among so me leaders of politica l parties and organizations
in Italy and Mozambique.
In this first case, Italy, after trying to implement its foreign
policy and cooperation in its former colonies, with which, how-
ever, didn’t succeed in maintaining strong ties, turned to the
territories “belonging to weak colonial powers because the re-
lationships with the other countries belonging to former strong
colonial powers were essentially precluded” (Calchi Novati,
This opinion was substantially shared by Ennio Di Nolfo,
according to whom:
As a matter of fact, Mozambique, like other Portuguese
colonies, was one of the privileged sectors of the Italian pene-
tration, being Portugal a weak power, so having Italy the pos-
sibility or hope to get more benefits than those which could be
obtained from other colonies belonging to France or Britain)
(Di Nolfo, 1997).
Therefore, Italy probably intended to create its own area of
political and economic influence in a country of ancient Portu-
guese colonization that, even from a geographical point of view,
was closer to its former colonies and had reached independence
in the period in which Italy had just begun to structure its coop-
eration policy.
Another important element to be taken into account was the
conditioning resulting from the commitments arising from its
participation in the Atlantic Pact. How it makes us keenly note
Calchi Novati:
NATO, and in general East-West policy, gave Italy the op-
portunity to intervene much more on the world stage. Among
other things, being accepted among the great liberal democra-
cies of the West was considered itself a foreign policy objective,
indeed the only true big goal attained by our foreign policy
(Calchi Novati, 1997).
Even after the ending of the “bloc politics”, the influence of
the Atlantic Alliance has remained strong. Italy has therefore
tried to take advantage of the conflicts within the NATO
(Romano, 2002) to recover those pos itions that were closer to his
original in terest, an d had partl y to set aside due to its depend ence
from the ally (Calchi Novati, 1997). The Italian support to Mo-
zambique in the period when the country was a Socialist Re-
public, can be placed in this perspective.
The one above described, however, represents the already
“institutionalized” phase of the cooperation between Italy and
Mozambique. The question that now arises is how these results
were reached. “Political non-governmental relations” played in
this case a decisive role. They came before the strategic options
in the “official” Italian foreign policy were taken, but then they
facilitated its implementation and consolidation. Here is what
the first Italian ambassador in Maputo, Claudio Moreno (in
office from 1976 to 1980), protagonist of the events of those
years, says: The friendship with Mozambique was born through
the thin network of diplomatic contacts wo ven by Italy , which led
to the opening of the first embassy of a Western country in
The Role of Italian Political Organizations
and Civil Society in the Birth of Bilateral
Cooperation Italy-Mozambique
Moreover, Italy was one of the first Western countries to
promote a joint committee and a cooperation agreement with
Mozambique. Moreno also emphasizes the important role that
the pressures and initiatives on the government by the PCI and
the PSI had in order to encourage the birth of the Italian devel-
opment cooperation with Mozambique.
The above presented situation suggests that, in the decade
1970-1980, at least three social actors were able to influence the
institutional choices in favor of Mozambique. They are the
mirror of the Italian political peculiarity in the context of the
Cold War. Actually, Italy was a country in which the socialist
and the catholic traditions worked together for the building of
popular democracy and international stability. These two ten-
Open Access
dencies were not only of political nature: they were of cultural,
ethical, ph ilosop hic natu re to o. Their d ifferent ideas of solidarity
made a convergence of interests towards Mozambique that was
possible, thanks to other, important international reasons, too,
that we will present later.
The most significant forces that contributed to the choice
Mozambique as the privileged Italian international partner are
the following:
The left wing parties, both in their direct relations with the
Central Government and in those with the local governments,
especially in the so called “Red Towns” (towns with a left wing
local government); which represented the first example of de-
centralized cooperation.
The Catholic Church, especially through some of its organi-
zations, which were able to influence the Christian Democrat
Party (DC) in power, in order to develop good relations with
Mozambique, in addition to NGOs of different inspiration;
Italian ac ademic world, wi dely present from the beginning of
the Italian cooperation with Mozambique, and even more after
the failure of the Somali experience in the 1980s.
1) If in the “First Republic” the left wing parties never had
direct responsibility in central government, the same cannot be
said with regard to local governments that gave a decisive con-
tribution to coop eration with Mozam bique4. Although there isn’t
a wide literature on the subject, with the exception of very few
studies (Lanzafame/Podaliri, 2004), we can find a large numbers
of contributions of journalistic or propagandistic nature, as well
as the testimonies of those who lived in the first person that
extraordinar y s eas on th a t can h el p us t o r ebuil d th e development
of this unique relationship. The first contacts between members
of the political and intellectual Italian and Mozambican worlds
took place in the early sixties. At that time, a strong anti-colonial
attitude and a feeling of solidarity with developing countries had
developed in t he Italian public opinion, involv ing more and more
sectors of the society: from intellectuals, to the Church, from
organizations of various kind to students as well as ordinary
people. This attitude spread to the institutions, giving impulse to
a series of initiatives of solidarity from cultural, religious and
political forces even before an interest by the government was
born (Calchi Novati, 1997). Dina Forti, for many years respon-
sible for the contacts with the liberation movements in devel-
oping countries on behalf of PCI, tells that in 1962, two years
before the declaration of armed struggle, was contacted by
Marcelino dos Santos, one of the main leaders of FRELIMO, of
whom she had never heard about. Dos Santos asked her to ar-
range a meeting with one of the PCI leaders to talk about Mo-
zambique and the rising of its independence movement. Gian-
carlo Pajetta, head of the International Department, agreed with
great interest to meet him5. At the time, many Italian munici-
palities as Piacenza, Grosseto and Trento gave their support to
the anti-colonial struggle In October 1964, the Reggio Emilia
communist ruled city council, following the FRELIMO decision
to start the armed insurrection, sent to the guerrilla leaders a
message of support to the liberation struggle of the people of
Mozambique. A few years later, in 1966, José Luís Cabaço, a
young FRELIMO activist, who later held important government
positions, arrived in Italy with two objectives: to study sociology
at Trento University and create a network of relationships that
might have helped in the fight against the Portuguese colonial-
ism: the objective was actually met. Although he never directly
took part in the commissions dealing with cooperation, the
Mozambican statesman became an adviser to the Foreign Min-
ister Joaquim Chissano and President Samora Machel for issues
concerning Italy, because of his deep knowledge o f the country6.
So Luis Cabaço recalls the climate of fervor and renewal that
Italy experienced in the Sixties and Seventies:
It is not possible to understand the cooperation between Italy
and Mozambique if we do not remember the peculiarity of the
Italian democracy in the post war period, its partisan tradition
and, in particular, the dream of a historic compromise between
the Catholic and socialist positions as regards social justice.
With the advent of anti-colonial struggle, the means of com-
munication between our two peoples expanded the missionary
experience, incorporating compon ents of political id entity which
took off from the hands of the Portuguese colonial government
its control on this relationship. This spaces opened the way to
the first interventions of a Catholic Church committed in favor of
the destiny and the aspirations of colonized people... Also the
role played by the political left winged forces on the issue of the
Third World grew (Cabaço, 2003: 9).
It was in this atmosphere that the idea of organizing a con-
ference of solidarity with the peoples still under the Portuguese
colonial rule aro se. It was held in Rome from 24 to 26 June 1970
and was attended by representatives of Angola, Guinea Bissau
and Mozambique. Pers onalities belonging to the world of culture
and politics from all the parties gave their support to the event.
On this occasion, an official meeting between representatives of
the Portuguese colonies and Pope Paul VI was arranged. It h ad a
great importance since it represented the legitimacy, from a
political and moral point of view, of the national liberation
movements in those countries. The meeting with the Pope was
organized by Marcella Glisenti, founder of the bookstore Paesi
Nuovi in Rome, who had alwa ys bee n interested i n issues l ink ed
to the Third Wor ld. Paesi Nuovi was connect ed to the DC, but, at
the same time, Marcella Glisenti was part of IPALMO, whose
President was Gian Paolo Calchi Novati, an academic professor
of left tendency. This meeting represented the most effective
initiative arising from the alliance between the democratic Ca-
tholicism and the Marxist tradition in favor of the liberation
struggle of the African Portuguese colonies. In an indirect form,
the European enemy was represented by Portugal, a State
member of the NATO, but that did not collect any political
sympathy in the main Italian parties. The political leaders who
took part in th e event were the leaders of the m ovements fighting
for independence: Agostinho Neto from Angola, Amilc ar Cabral
from Guinea Bissau and Marcelino dos Santos from Mozam-
…They were received as representatives of Angola, Mozam-
bique and Guinea Bissau, so indirectly recognized as inde-
pendent countries and not as Portuguese colonies. That caused,
of course, the official protests of Portugal... (GLISENTI, 1993:
Another important consequence of the Rome Conference was
the birth of the “policy of twinning”, chiefly supported by the
eminent parasitologist Silvio Pampiglione, a doctor known for
4Interview with Ambassador Claudio Moreno, 28th January 2011.
5Some information are taken from our meeting with Dina Forti, that took place
in her house in Rome on 26th January 2011; She recalled some events very
clearly, others she had forgotten because of the old age or she preferred not to
talk about. We have only used inform ation that could be confirmed.
6Interview wi th L. Cabaço ,f or mer S tat e Wor k S ecretar y an d act in g Min ister
of Information in the transitional government, Minister of Transport and
Communications (1 Government), Minister of Information 1981-1986,and
Member of Parliament (Maputo November 29th 2010).
Open Access 189
his humanitarian commitment in countries emerging from colo-
nialism. It is so possible to say that the academic cooperation
with Mozambique has its origin in this meeting: as a matter of
fact, Pampiglione will be one of the first doctors to go to Mo-
zambique, developing the first Italian cooperation programs.
So, in the same year 1970, the PC I entrusted three Italian cities
councils with the task of managing relations with the three Af-
rican countries: Angola was assigned to Prato, Guinea Bissau
and Cape Verde to Arezzo and Mozambique to Reggio Emilia.
While the twinning projects with the other two cities did not
produce lasting fruits, the one between Reggio Emilia and Mo-
zambique remains one of the most meaningful and successful
model of what was called “diplomacy from below” (Lan-
zafame/Podaliri, 2004: 15) the first example of decentralized
cooperation. Even today there are cases of cooperation carried
out at the level o f local governme nt: it is worth remembering the
Cooperation Agreement between the Autonomous Province of
Trento and the Province of Sofala in 2001.
About the twinning with Reggio Emilia, Giuseppe Soncini,
then president of the Hospital Santa Maria Nuova in the city,
said that he was contacted by the direction of the Communist
Party who entrusted him with the task of creating a link with
Mozambique. He confesses that, fascinated by the personality of
Amilcar Cabral, would have preferred to deal with Guinea Bis-
sau, but he accepted the Party guidelines, succeeding in giving
birth to an unique and very successful experiment, one of the
most striking examples of the involvement of local authorities: a
partnership between the Reggio E milia hospita l and the guerrill a
hospital, only a few huts in the Mozambique forest.
In 1972, Soncini organized an expedition across the border of
Tanzania, to the northern areas of Mozambique freed by the
guerrilla, to bring solidarity and concrete help. Besides him,
other people took p art in the expe dition: Lanfranco Turci head of
the Department of Health of the Emilia Romagna region, Angelo
Pisi, vice mayor of Reggio Emilia, journalist Marisa Musu and
Franco Cigarini, a photog rapher and documentar y film maker on
behalf of Regg io Emi lia city council. The film Ten days with the
guerrillas in freed Mozambique, shot by Franco Cigarini, re-
mains as an evidence of the expedition. It is the first documen-
tary movie on th e liberation strug gle in Mozambique that arrived
in Europe7.
From 24 to 25 March 1973 the “National Conference of
Solidarity with the struggle of Independence of Angola, Guinea
and Mozambique” to which Samora Machel took part, was held
in Reggio Emil ia . Al so this conference was suppor te d by a lar ge
number of Italian politicians and intellectuals belonging to
various political groups, such as PCI, PSIUP, PSI, DC.
During these meetings, the foundation of the friendship be-
tween the Italians and the representatives of the guerrillas, later
rulers of Mozambique, was laid; a friendship that remained
unchanged over the years. Among other measures in favor of
Mozambique, the municipality of Reggio Emilia organized,
from 1979 onwards, the sending of three cargo ships carrying
humanitaria n a i ds.
After independence, President Samora Machel personally in-
vited Dina Forti in Mozambique with the delicate task of holding
an institutional position on behalf of the government, thanks to
the relations of friendship and respect that he and the leaders of
FRELIMO had for her.
The Catholic Church has always considered Mozambique as
an important target of its mission. It is quite impressive the
number of articles, reports, interviews that the newspaper of the
Italian Catholic bishops, “L’Osservatore Romano”, published
since Mozambique independence. Although the majority of the
articles are concentrated in two years, (1988: the visit in Mo-
zambique of the Pope; 1992: the General Peace Agreement in
Rome, thanks to the mediation of the Sant’Egidio Community),
the activity of the Church in Mozambique is constantly reported
with a very special attention by the newspaper (BUSSOTTI,
2011). When Samora Machel died, in 1986, although his clear
anti-religious tendencies, “L’Osservatore Romano” commented
the event in a very worried tone, because of the strategic trans-
formation that Machel had been operating in the economic poli-
tics of Mozambique (Chillà, 1986). Many of the DC politicians,
who took part in various Italian Governments, were strictly
linked to the Church, especially to the missionary wing, par-
ticularly sensitive to the Mozambican reality. Among the poli-
ticians already mentioned, Piero Bassetti, Luigi Granelli (who
occupied the charge of Minister), Carlo Fracanzani (who was
Vice-Minister), were the exponent of this “missionary wing” in
the Italian Government. Of course, they directly influenced the
option for Mozambique, especially in the 1970s, when, in Italy,
for the first and last time in its history, DC and PCI formed a
government of national unity (1976), in order to fight the
common struggle against t errorism. Coincidentally, these are the
years in which Mozambique reached its independence, so it was
quite easy, for the DC politicians, to comply with the requests
coming from the PCI and the Cath olic Church. Even if the Ital ian
government never recognized th e FRELIMO dur ing th e national
liberation struggle, Mozambique was officially recognized
immediately after its independence. Hence, the Italian central
authorities began the building of an aid program. What had
happened in the two meetings in Rome and Reggio Emilia
helped in this sense: Minister Fanfani agreed, for example, to
meet President Samora Machel and this represented a great
political event. The Italian Government itself directly became
active in Mozambique, with the massive program of develop-
ment cooperation, which we have mentioned above. Andreotti,
for a long time Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the most
prominent members of DC, gave a great attention to the relations
with East and Africa , focusing on Moz ambique, as demons trated
by the many visits to the country he made, and by the support
given to peace proc ess. His purpose was to fit into the spaces tha t
the great powers had left free in the international arena, as Ca-
baço remarked8. Going to Mozambique, to take office, the first
italian Ambassador Claudio Moreno was accompanied by a
small delegation of doctors, including Professor Pampiglione,
Professor Cresta and Dr. Monasta that immediately were en-
gaged in a support program in Maputo Central Hospital as well
as in the Medicine Faculty of the University Eduardo Mondlane.
The Italian position appeared to be completely different from
that of other countries. Ambassador Claudio Moreno says that
Italy was very well seen at governmental level. As a demon-
stration of it , he tells th at, while at that tim e all th e Mozambic ans
that held institutional positions, were not allowed to have rela-
tionships with Western embassies, they were not forbidden to
7A testimony about the expedition from Reggio Emilia to the guerrilla camps
has been give n by William Turci, La nfranco Turci’s bro ther, in a conve rsation
in Maputo, where he moved in the period immediately following the inde-
pendence, working for the Italian cooperation at first and then becoming an
entreprene ur (Nov e mber 2010). 8L. Cabaço, quoted interview.
Open Access
have contacts with the Italian9. Later the “Tangentopoli” storm
wiped out some of the protagonists of the first phase of coop-
eration with Mozambique, but it did no t interrupt the relation ship
of solidarity between the two countries. The most relevant event
showing the good relations existing between thes e two countr ies
was registered in 1981, when President Samora Machel went to
Rome on an official visit and was received at the Quirinale by
President Sandro Pertini (Fondazione Sandro Pertini, 1981);
Machel returned in Rome in 1985, and, on that occasion, was
received by Pope John Paul II. The words of Mario Lanzafame,
sum up the birth, institutionalization and strengthen of the Italy-
Mozambique cooperation:
... as solidarity... turns into cooperation, as activists in the
labor movement, execu tives, professionals in the health field and
administrators transformed the theory and practice of prole-
tarian internationalism , as it was c alled, in solidari ty at first and
then in cooperation; as individual believers, militant in social
Christian organizations, important Christian Democrat leaders
made use of their government positioning to offer the opportu-
nity of creating at first supportive relationships and then rela-
tionships linked to a more general framework of development
models, as anti-colonialist and emancipation mo vements... build
relations and connections, that leave deep traces to the present
time: what they kept from the experience gained during the
season of the struggle and what they left behind when they be-
came leaders of their countries; as professionals or volunteers,
individually at first and then in partnerships, built and put into
practice solidarity, international cooperation and humanitarian
intervention (Lanzafame, 2005).
Strong relationships were also created with many NGOs,
among which the most active were Molisv and CUAMM, but
also with IPALMO, that so much would have done in the birth
and development of university cooperat ion in Mozambique. One
of the highest points in the relationships between Italy and Mo-
zambique is represented by the signing of the Rome Peace
Agreement, in 1992, which, thanks to the mediation of the
Catholic Church and Sant’Egidio Community, put an end to a
civil war that had lasted 16 years. After the signing of the peace
agreement, the UN sent international troops to Mozambique
(Onumoz), to manage the peace transition (Couto, 2000), in
which also Italian soldiers took part.
2) Italian universities did not have a strong tradition in the
activity of international cooperation, especially with Africa.
However, the cooperation with Somalia had obtained, as one of
its best results, the opening of the Somali University. The po-
litical situation in Mozambique and its friendly relationship
with the Italian Government made possible to develop some
initiatives in this field. Mozambique needed technical assis-
tance: socialist countries could not guarantee all these necessi-
ties, so Italy entered a space quite empty. Personal relations too
had an important role. In 1976, together with the first Italian
Ambassador, Moreno, some academic professors leaved to
Mozambique, beginning to cooperate with this country, initially
in the field of health and, from 1977, through programs of tech-
nical assistance with the Faculty of Geology. In 1978 the com-
mitment of Italian academic cooperation involved other facul-
ties, such as Agriculture, Economics, Medicine and Archi-
tecture. The Italian universities most involved in these first
programs were Rome, Viterbo, Udine and Venice. In 1983, the
first bilateral agreement of academic cooperation Italy-Mo-
zambique was signed. These programs continue till today even
if with some difficulties, due to the financial situation of Italy.
3) In the Seventies IPALMO played a relevant role in the
building university cooperation. This institute has been defined
as “... (a) kind of pressure group, a real aid lobby”, led by Piero
Bassetti and Giampaolo Calchi Novati (Calchi Novati, 1997).
The successes achieved in this specific field of cooperation,
certainly persuaded the two parts to go on with the academic
relationships. As a direct impact of this commitment on the
country’s development, it is possible to mention, the following
areas in which the scientific international cooperation between
Italy and Mozambique was carried out:
a) Geology: 10 square degrees of the provinces of Nampula,
Zambézia and Cabo Delgado were cartographated, and a great
quantity of petrographic, geological and geophysical data
gathered. New areas of mining interest, the ones that only be-
gan to be exploited in the Nineties, were identified in the Seven-
ties thanks to the Italian scientific cooperation. Hydro-geo-
logical maps of Maputo and Gaza provinces were produced.
b) Architecture: between 1996 and 2009, many studies were
performed, among which: a survey on the Maputo corridor, the
main road connection between Mozambique and South Africa;
the analysis of the growth of urban centres and their suburbs;
the classification of the architectural heritage of the country
and, finally, the elaboration of town planning schemes referred
to various cities, among which Matola. Rules for the civil con-
structions were defined. It is important to point out that the
Architecture faculty of the Mondlane University eas established
thanks to a direct partnership with the University of Rome, La
c) Agriculture: Both the Sunflower Project in South Mo-
zambique, creating a new variety of sunflower, more suitable
for the local climatic features and the experimentation on the
njiemba bean, helped Mozambique to diminish its structural
food deficit.
d) Medicine: an important research was published, at the
end of a program aimed to study and identify the main charac-
teristics of infectious diseases, such as enteritis, sexually trans-
mitted diseases, otitis and parasitosis.
e) An international Centre of Biotechnology was set up, that
has established itself as one of the most prominent centers of
excellence in the area of applied sciences in Mozambique.
Also cases of failure were registered, such as the coopera-
tion between the Faculty of Economics of the Eduardo Mond-
lane University and the Faculty of Economics of the Tor Ver-
gata University in Rome, but they did not interrupt the scien-
tific cooperation between the two countries.
4) The external factors. Besides inner factors, external reasons
too contributed to the development of the relationship between
Italy and Mozam bique. At a g eo- p oliti cal lev el, in fa ct, It al y h ad
tried, without success, to play a po litical and economic rol e in its
former colonies. Its following step was, therefore, to “enter” the
territories “belonging to weak colonial powers, as the relation-
ships with the res t of the former col onial world was interdic ted to
us” as Gian Paolo Calchi Novati points out at the conference
“L’Italia nell’era della colonizzazione e del neocolonialismo”
(Calchi Novati, 1997).
According to this interpretation, Italy opportunistically “en-
tered” the former Portuguese colony, due to the weakness of
Portugal, as Ennio Di Nolfo stated in the above mentioned
Mozambique, as the other Portuguese colonies, has been one
9C. Moreno, quoted interview.
Open Access 191
of the privileged sectors for Italy, being naturally Portugal a
weak power, and leaving to Italy the possibility or the hope to
obtain here more vantages than in the other colonies belonging
to France or Great Britain (Di Nolfo, 1997).
So, a very plausible reason for the italian commitment in the
cooperation with Mozambique might be its attempt to create a
zone of political and economic influence, considering the
proximity of Mozambique to the former Italian colonies. An-
other external reason could be i ts position as a member of NATO.
As Calchi Novati stresses:
Nato, and generally the East-West politics, gave Italy inter-
esting chances f or inte rven i ng in the in ternati onal sc enario. The
simple fact to be part of the great Western democracies was
considered a goal, or better, the only, real goal of our foreign
politics effectively achieved (Calchi Novati, 1997).
This ability, from the Italian side, to insert its foreign strategy
inside the framework of the Cold War and of the NATO too,
permitted it to act according to a high level of originality and
freedom. Adding the fact that Samora Machel, in spite of the
marxist choice of the governament, was never willing to close
international relations with the Western countries, it is then
possible to explain the reason why these external factors ap-
proximated the two countries. Without former colonies towards
which to direct its political strategy, Italy switched its attention
to the are as of te nsions ra ther t ha n to those of stab ility (Rom ano,
The Importance of Economic Factors
Looking for the reasons that are at the basis of the Italian
cooperation in Mozambique we cannot forget the economic
aspects, which are many and long-standing, although for the
most part, so far unknown.
To understand the importance of Mozambique for the Italian
economy and the commitment of the Italian Cooperation in this
country, we must go back to the period immediately after inde-
pendence, in which man y Italian companies were engaged in the
building of important infrastructures.
The Corumana dam is the most important contract signed
between Italy and Mozambique after independence. In 1982 the
Banco de Moçambique made a financial agreement with Medi-
ocredito bank for a 13 billion dollars loan for the building of the
dam. The works were entrusted to the consortium
(Condotte d’Acqua, Bonifica-IRI, Lega delle Cooperative).
To the same period dates the construction of the Pequenos
Libombos dam, whose building was entrusted to the Consorzio
Strade-Italstrad e and to the C alzoni Com pany. The tot al value of
the works was of 110 million dollars for which Mozambique
signed an agreement with Mediocredito bank (Repubblica,
Other Italian companies took charge, over the years, of the
rebuilding of power lines (SAE/Sadelmi in the Centre-North,
ENEL between Cahora Bassa and South Africa), aqueducts
(CMB in Beira, CMC in Pemba), the railway line Maputo—
Swaziland (Consorzio IRSA—Ansaldo/Astaldi), roads (CMC
and Astaldi), the completion of the first optic fiber telephone
connection (Italtel). In recent years, Italy has had a role in Mo-
zambican economy through ENI oil exploration and the culti-
vation of oil palm and jatropha for the production of fuels.
The great Italian works in Mozambique continued, even if on
a smaller scale, dur ing the nineties and the new millennium , until
the inauguration, of the bridge over the Zambezi River, in 2009.
Although the work s were carried out by a Portuguese consortium,
the Italian company Trevi played an important role in its con-
struction, having built the foundations of the pillars. Through
their contributions the European Commission (€35 million),
Italy (20 million ) and Sweden (1 8 million ), a llow ed making true
the old Mozambican dream of joining the north and the south of
the country, separated by the Zam b ezi River.
Italian cooperation in the infrastructure sector has never
stopped: a project f or the construction of the Nhaca ngara dam (in
the province of Manica) for an amount of more than 60 million
euro and the one for the drainage of a part of the city of Maputo
are in progress. (Ministero Degli Esteri-Coopera-Zione Allo
Sviluppo, 2012).
Currently the CMC OF Ravenna is in charge of the rehabili-
tation of the sewer system of Beira, Mozambique’s second
largest city, the building of highways and other civil works10.
In recent y ears, thanks to th e continuation of the aid on the one
hand and the investment growth on the others, the Italian pres-
ence in Mozambique has definitely strengthened and has been
supported by the “Africa Plan” of the Ministry of Foreign Af-
fairs and the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE).
From 2008, the will to create economic ties between the two
countries, which also can take advantage of the thirtyfive-year
friendship between Italy and Mozambique, has be come pressing.
There’s the Italian intention to benefit from the position of the
African country which has one of most promising economies in
the SADC thanks to its vast n atu ral r esour ces not fully exp loited
yet (lo Cascio, 2010).
As a result of this renewed commitment, exports increased
(compared to 2008) to more than 63% (from 24 to 39 million
euro, the highest value in the last ten years), placing Italy in the
ninth position among Mozambique supplying countries (data
Simultaneously to the growth of exports, there has been a
reduction in imports by 38%, the Italian trade deficit thus pass-
ing from about 236 million to about 121 million (data 2010).
Cooperation has thus been an effective lever for raising and
expanding the partnership between Rome and Maputo and to
support the renewed interest of Italian companies in the Mo-
zambican market.
Recently, moreover, the ENI research for oil and natural gas
in northern Mozambique that began a few years ago, have borne
fruit. At the end of 2011, the Italian oil company announced the
discovery of a huge natural gas field off the coast of Cabo
Delgado, estimated at 30 billion cubic meters, which could
radically change Mozambican economy, creating at the same
time, a major source of income for the Italian company (Daly,
2011; Smith, 2012; Garzilli, 2012): “... (the) greatest discovery
of hydrocarbons that Eni h as ever done... the increase 20% at one
swoop of the world reserves of the six-legged dog, “as stated by
the Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni (Il Sole 24 Ore, 21/10/2011).
The opening of a new phase of economic relations between
the two countries as a result of the exploitation of natural gas
fields discovered by ENI, not separated by the continuation of
co-operation relationships, still required by the Mozambican
government, was also out lined b y the Italian Mi nister of F oreign
Affairs Terzi, during his official visit to Mozambique on May
10CMC has been in Mozambique since 1982, when the Pequenos Libombos
dam was built and (under the name of CMC Africa Australe Lda.) is the
greatest building company in the country employing 3.000 workers and with
100 million euro turnover. Source: “Il Sole 24 Ore” Speciale, numero 41,
17th Octobe r 2008, p. 27.
Open Access
Open Access 193
4th, 2012 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2012).
The here presented study intended to check the initial hy-
pothesis, according to which the cooperation between Italy and
Mozambique had an “atypical origin” denying, to some extent,
the established paradigms in this respect. Actually, from the
available data, it can be concluded that the reasons that usually
lead European countries to engage in cooperative relationships
with developing countries, do not apply to the Italian case, at
least as regards the relationship with Mozambique.
The almost complete absence of a colonial history made so
that Italy had to “crea te” areas of influence in the African con text,
which didn’t take place neither through a planned project, nor,
much less, through an “institutionalized” modality. The main
way to enter Mozambique in a such massive manner has been
through a “bottom up” strategy, thanks to the political relations
of leftist Italian forces with FRELIMO in a first time, and then
through the Catho lic movements too. From the moment in which
Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, its govern-
ment established good diplomatic and bilateral official relations
with Italy, taking advantage of all the political relationships
developed throughout the years thanks to the activism of local
This led to a long period of cooperation, even if with limited
economic benefits in comparison with the amount of the invest-
ments, as clearly indicated in the above study. However, the
impacts on the scientific field have been relevant, since great
progresses have been made in the knowledge of geology, agri-
culture, medicine, architecture and urban planning.
It is possible that the current situation will change this frame-
work, as the ENI investment in C abo Delgado gas seems to show.
It would be quite interesting to understand if and how the strong
bilateral r elations between I taly and Mozambique have been able
to open the doors to ENI, or if it has been the result of an inde-
pendent activity of this great company. But this is another issue,
which would need a new and different research.
A special thank to prof. Maurizio Vernassa, director of the
PhD School in geopolitics at the University of Pisa, for the
support given to this research, presented today in the journal
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