Qurinale Palace, 20/03/2017
Dear Mrs. Chantal,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Exactly one year has elapsed since, in March 2016 - during my first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa - I made a State Visit to the Republic of Cameroon.
That, for me, was an institutional mission and, at the same time, a learning opportunity: a Country rich of talents, ideas, resources, proud of its multifarious identity, located in a strategic position within the social and political dynamics of the Sahel and of Central-Western Africa. A nation intent on integrating with bordering Countries and with African States, determined to play a forward-looking and positive stabilising role.
A Country that knows that it can find within itself and, above all, within the capabilities of its population - especially of its youth - the source and reason for long-term sustainable development.
I acquired this knowledge through a particularly warm welcome from the Cameroonian people, and from you and your wife, Mr President. A welcome that today you, by accepting my invitation, have given me the opportunity to reciprocate, in the same spirit of true and sincere friendship.
Of that visit I remember with great pleasure the many fruitful opportunities to meet and to discuss the state of our relations and the most pressing international topical issues. I remember with special sympathy the extraordinary, hard-working Italian organisations operating in a wide range of sectors within the Cameroonian society, with the same passion and friendship they dedicate to their own communities, in providing humanitarian assistance, training, support to economic and business projects and in scientific cooperation.
This presence, as well as that of the industrious and well-integrated community of Cameroonian origin in Italy, which constitutes an authentic model of integration, largely contribute to the development and growth of both our Countries.
Among the most vivid recollections that I harbour in my memory there is the one linked to the future of the relations between our two peoples, symbolised by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the students of the University of Yaoundé.
In them, as in the many Cameroonian youths who study in Italy, we place our confident expectations of a bright future for your Country, as a sign of the values of coexistence and the preservation of cultural diversity and wealth that, up to now, have marked the history of peace, stability, of a multicultural society and of the strengthening of ties between Cameroon and Italy.
Institutions undoubtedly have the duty to develop relations between States but it is friendship between peoples and persons - the friendships made sitting at the desk of a University, in a company, in a hospital ward, in a library - that make them strong and enduring.
In the course of its history Cameroon has tackled complex challenges with determination and seriousness, in addition to sacrifice, and is now engaged in the praise-worthy effort to diversify its economy and bolster its infrastructure.
These are challenges in the face of which you will always, at any time, be able to count on the friendship and support of Italy, its Institutions, its entrepreneurial system, its people.
Important partnerships have also been recently established in the industrial sector, in urban planning and infrastructure while the agro-food and wood processing sector and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises are the areas in which Italy's presence in Cameroon represents a long-established point of reference still capable of continuously developing new potential. We can do even more, and we can do it together, by fully exploiting the complementarities that exist between our economic systems.
We can do it especially because, in the course of time, we have succeeded to create a climate of trust and respect between our people, which constitutes the most important asset in our relations.
Culture, training, humanitarian cooperation, universities, sports, health care, and urban planning, are all sectors in which we have recently focused agreements and initiatives that not only represent theoretical cooperative efforts but now - a year after they were signed - have already produced their first important fruits. Proof of this are the large urban and infrastructure projects that envisage the involvement of Italian companies, the flourishing of new inter-University agreements between a growing number of campuses, new training opportunities for our youth in innovative sectors, actions aimed at preventing and tackling the area's humanitarian emergencies.
I wish to reaffirm once again the great consideration that Italy has for the generosity with which Cameroon welcomes such a large number of people fleeing from war, persecutions and hunger in other Countries of the region. It is a notable effort that our Country, which deals with the multiple challenges of the migration phenomenon on a daily basis, wholeheartedly appreciates.
The difficulties that Africa is facing, also arising from the effects of climate change - not a minor element in the drama of the new hunger emergency in a sizable section of Sub-Saharan Africa - have compounded in the last few years with the threat posed by terrorism, in all its dramatic inhumanity.
Cameroon was one of the Countries most hit by the criminal actions of Boko Haram and has been capable of reacting to this threat with force and determination. The positive connection established with the States of the region through the Multinational Joint Task Force, which Italy and Europe actively support, constitutes an example of how we should face up to the barbarity of terrorism through continuous dialogue and effective cooperation at regional level.
Allow me to conclude, on this happy occasion - that enables us to celebrate a year in which the relations between Cameroon and Italy have grown stronger as never before - by reiterating the wish that our friendship, based on attested premises and intention, might grow even deeper and stronger.
Today more than in the past, our Countries are called upon to interact to achieve the full establishment of democracy, peace and growth, in Africa and in Europe.
Our educational and economic systems are complementary in their will to make the best possible use of talents and resources in looking at the future together and in achieving the aspirations of our young generations, both African and European.
The relationship between Cameroon and Italy is a model of a fruitful friendship between Africa and Europe.
In this spirit, I invite you all to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to your prosperity and wellbeing and to that of your family, to our cooperation and to the friendship between our Countries.
Long live Cameroon and long live Italy.