Every year since 1946, on June 2, Italy commemorates the institutional referendum held by universal suffrage in which the Italian people were called to the polls to decide on the form of government they would like to shape their Institutions – a monarchy or a republic.
With almost 13 million votes cast in favour of the Republic ( 54.27 per cent) Italy has since given itself a new form of government and moved away from the tragic past that led to the fascist dictatorship and the Second World War.
Since then, celebrations are held every year in Italy and around the world to remember the moment our people became fully empowered to participate in the life of our institutions and were given the freedom of choosing their representatives.
It is, therefore, a moment of hope and collective will that I would like to extend to our Kenyan friends, in such an important year, when they will be called to the polls. Let me say, though, that 2017 is an important year also for the bilateral relations between Kenya and Italy.
Only a few days ago President Uhuru Kenyatta went to Italy – among very few other African heads of state – to take part in the session of the G7 Summit dedicated to relations with Africa. Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of the G7.
The message that came out of this important international event, which brings together the seven most industrialised countries in the world (the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan), is that Africa’s economic, social, cultural and human development matters to the rest of the world.
I believe that Kenya has a prominent position in this regard: Its fast-growing economy; its cutting-edge ICT services; its profile as a regional financial and logistic hub; these are some of the ingredients that make Kenya a very suitable country to act as a front-runner in meeting the challenges that the African continent will face in the future. Italy is, therefore, very willing and committed to doing its part in supporting Kenya in this endeavour.
For example, Kenya is among the 22 countries around the world that receive the biggest amount of Italian development cooperation funds. Through these funds we finance projects spanning from rural development to water sanitation to urban planning and renewable energy.
Italy is also one of the few countries that have cancelled Kenya’s debt and converted it into 93 development initiatives: A true example of innovative financial tools that can be used to support the growth of a partner country.
The relations between Italy and Kenya are progressing and deepening, thanks to the increase in the volume of our commercial exchanges and the growing interest of Italian enterprises wishing to invest in Kenya.
I take particular pride in the invaluable contribution of the many NGOs and religious men and women who every day stand side by side with the most disadvantaged in this country; and the increased interest coming from Kenyans to study in and visit Italy.
I can say without hesitation that, in every aspect of our daily activities, we are noticing an increasing interest in Italy from our Kenyan friends and vice versa. I am sure this is just a confirmation of a real cultural likeness between our peoples, the one that makes dialogue possible and allows us to understand each other’s jokes.
Finally, allow me to address my many fellow Italian citizens living in Kenya. I really hope that the occasion of our National Day can be used as an example of unity, identity and proximity to our motherland, even if we are far away from home.
The Institutions that I represent are here to serve you and to make relations with Italy easier and more frequent. I really consider this one of my most important missions in this country.
Buona Festa della Repubblica! Congratulations to Italy!