The governor of Emilia Romagna province in Italy, Stefano Bonaccini (left), and Premier David Makhura. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Gauteng Premier David Makhura has secured the first multibillion-rand investment deal with one of the major provincial governments of Italy - giving hope to millions of unemployed people in the province.

This was also the first for Stefano Bonaccini - the governor of the Emilia-Romagna Region province in northern Italy, to sign such a groundbreaking deal with one of the regions of Africa, and Gauteng in particular.

The deal was concluded during the third South Africa - Italy Summit 2016, which began at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank yesterday.

The signing of the deal was witnessed by 250 chief executive officers from other African states and Italy, including diplomats and South Africa’s government ministers.

Declaring his acceptance to invest in Gauteng, Bonaccini said he was not in the country to “build walls”, but to extend his hand and work with Makhura to exchange ideas in the field of knowledge, research and agri-processing.

Entities like Johannesburg Water, Tshwane Water and others in the different municipalities were set to benefit. The Italian also vowed to assist in research through partnership with local universities and the setting up of manufacturing industries for the benefit of the two provinces.

“This is a five-year deal, but we are looking beyond the five years,” he promised. Bonnacini said they chose Gauteng because as the two provinces have a lot a common.

Both contribute significantly to the GDP of their respective countries. His sentiments were also echoed by Italy's ambassador to South Africa Pietro Giovanni Donnici, who said his country chose South Africa because of its rule of law and the availability of institutions of democracy.

He said that created for the Italian government an environment to invest in South Africa and Gauteng.The ambassador was speaking after Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane also signed a separate memorandum of understanding with her Italian counterpart, Barbara Degani, the deputy minister of environment, land and sea.

The occasion was also graced by the presence of the South African ambassador to Italy, Nomatemba Tambo - the daughter of former ANC president Oliver Tambo - who also gave the deal her blessing.

However, it was her father who forged relations with the Italian government 40 years ago while still in exile. These Italians still hold Tambo in high regard, and his daughter said their deal would “show Europeans how to deal with Africa”.

“It emerged during the summit that Makhura did a lobbying behind the scenes and managed to convince the European House Ambrosetti to choose Gauteng,” she said.

The two previous South Africa-Italy summits were held in Cape Town and through Makhura’s persuasion the Italian delegation headed to Gauteng. Makhura has vowed that all other similar summits would be held in Gauteng.

“Our main focus is to boost exports from the province, attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into the province, increase tourism and share interventions and programmes with targeted partners to ensure that the key role-players in the public and private sector promote sustainable development and an inclusive economy,” Makhura said.

Between 2006 and 2014, nine FDI projects have come into the Gauteng economy from Italy. These were worth more than R2.3 billion and created 1 300 jobs, he added.

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