The streets of Rome and other Italian cities erupted with sheer joy, amidst car honking, horn blowing, firework explosion and so much hugging on Sunday 11th July 2021 when the Italian national men’s soccer team defeated England to win the Euro 2020 tournament.
A few weeks after that sweet victory, Lamont Marcell Jacobs shocked the world to cap a golden double for Italy on a dramatic day of athletic action at the Tokyo Olympic Games.Jacobs became the first Italian in history to win in the blue riband event of the Olympic track and field programme after powering home in a blistering 9.80sec.
It certainly was a great feeling, proud and ecstatic moment for all Italians, home and abroad on those victorious days. More especially, during the disruptive effect of the coronavirus pandemic which has resulted in months of lockdowns, economic despair, loss of lives, over stretched medical systems, collapse of enterprises and several other negative events.
On both occasions, I spoke to several Italian friends to share in their joy, sent my congratulatory messages and found out how they were celebrating their victory. One of the people I reached out to was Her Excellency Daniela d’Orlandi, the Italian Ambassador to Ghana who narrated how Italians in Italy were celebrating the victory.
August 2021 marked the first anniversary of the commencement of Ambassador d’Orlandi’s duty tour in Ghana. She invited me to the Embassy of Italy in Accra for a conversation on her stay in Ghana, the direction of the Embassy under her leadership and the current state of bilateral relationship between Ghana and Italy.
Her Excellency, a mother of three children, graduated with honors in Applied Economics from the University of Paris – Dauphine in 1996 and went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the same university. She is multilingual; speaks English, French and Spanish.
Prior to her appointment as Ambassador of Italy to Ghana and Togo in August 2020, she was the First Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations in Geneva and Head of Human Rights Section, during the mandate of Italy as Member of the UN Human Rights Council.
From 2004 to 2008, she served as the Deputy Head of Mission at the Italian Embassy in Santo Domingo and was Deputy to the Permanent Representative of Italy to the Council in Europe in Strasbourg from 2008 to 2012.
Ambassador d’Orlandi returned to the Diplomatic Protocol in Rome in 2012 where she served as Chief of Staff.
Describing her one-year stay in Ghana, the 2013 Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic recipient revealed that she opted for a posting in Ghana because she was curious about working in Africa. In addition, Ghana was her preferred destination due to the peace and stability in the country, the warmth of Ghanaians and the country’s rich diverse culture and traditions.
“My first year in Ghana has been very interesting and challenging at the same time due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since I arrived in Ghana, I have felt very welcome. If I am to select a local Ghanaian name, it will be Akua since I started my work in Ghana on a Wednesday. Food is a very important element in both Ghanaian and Italian cultures and I was surprised by the spiciness of Ghanaian food. My favorite currently is Jollof rice and also grilled snails”, she said.
Ambassador d’Orlandi is seeking to strengthen the healthy relationship between Ghana and Italy by promoting mutually beneficial partnerships in all possible sectors of common interest with particular focus on trade. She also wishes to improve the consular services, introduce more cultural projects and support great initiatives carried out by Italian associations in Ghana targeted at vulnerable groups.
She described the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda by the Government of Ghana as a bold and ambitious one with the aim of moving from aid to trade and investment. “Trade and investment are very important because they will foster job opportunities, wealth and growth. I believe Italy being the second manufacturing country of the European Union could greatly share its expertise and technology with Ghana to develop its local industries and transform its rich natural resources and raw materials with more value addition. Currently, technology transfer covers the largest part of our export to Ghana, a total of over €66m last year”, she stressed.
Her Excellency highlighted the importance of the private sector and mentioned two concessional loans worth a total of €30m from Italy to the Government of Ghana to support small and medium size enterprises through the Ghana Private Sector Development Fund accompanied by a technical assistance programme worth over €2m. She stated that Italy is committed to a new credit aid of a relevant amount for the third phase of the initiative once the assessment of the first two phases is completed.
About Italian initiatives to foster more trade and investments in Ghana, she said, “within this Embassy, we have the presence of the Italian Trade Agency and also a desk of SACE, which is the Italian Export Credit Agency. These entities are devoted to promoting business and credit opportunities between Ghanaian and Italian companies as well as facilitating access to technical training, technology transfer, marketing, finance, partnerships and ventures. They are working very closely with Ghanaian institutions to define joint activities and common priorities”.
The Embassy of Italy from 2018 to date has issued over 300 student visas to Ghanaians, with majority of the students awarded scholarships by Italian Universities. Yearly, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation offers grants to international students. The Ambassador also mentioned another important scholarship programme represented by “Invest Your Talent in Italy”. In this regard, she emphasized that “the programme is sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in partnership with Italian Trade Agency and Uni – Italia, with the support of Italian Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of Italian Industries, Italian Universities and other major Italian corporates. For the 2021/2022 academic year, more than 100 Ghanaians have applied. There are many Italian Universities offering scholarships on a yearly basis, many Ghanaian students apply to these universities”.
In the area of sports diplomacy, Ambassador d’Orlandi mentioned a long-standing relationship between Ghana and Italy beyond what most people know, being football. She further stated that the collaborations in other areas of sports.
“In volleyball, there is a collaboration between the deaf team of Italy and the deaf team of Ghana which is a nice example of solidarity through sports. Football is very popular as Italians and Ghanaians have common passion. Many Ghanaian champions started their careers in Italy and Italy is a country that has received the highest number of Ghanaian players. Also, from 1998 to 2000, an Italian Manager, Giuseppe Dossena, coached the Ghanaian senior national team, the Black Stars”, she added.
On the prospects of Ghana – Italy bilateral relations, Ambassador d’Orlandi is hopeful of tremendous improvement in the bilateral trade volume and cooperation as both countries have exhibited great desire and commitment to focus more effort on trade and investment.
By Chris Koney