An estimated one million African expats are living in Italy, which is one-fourth of the country’s total immigrant population. Almost half of these immigrants go to Italy’s northern cities, where many work in factories or open their own small businesses. Milan, Bergamo and Brescia are just three northern Italian cities with a high African expat population. In the south, Rome and Palermo have the highest African population.
Not losing one’s cultural identity is very important to African expats in Italy, but so is integrating into the local culture. In order to help overcome stereotypes and promote cross-cultural understanding, the African communities in many major cities in Italy periodically host cultural events to help introduce various African cultures to the local Italians. For example, the cultural event Ottobre Africano took place over three weeks in Rome, Milan, Reggio Emilia and Parma.
The strong sense of community among African expats in Italy helps them deal with the challenges of living abroad. The economic crisis in Italy has made it even harder for Africans to get a foothold in the country, and even well-established expats are struggling to make ends meet. Some are returning to Africa. Italian immigration laws also make it difficult for Africans to start a new life in Europe, but the support offered by various expat communities and the success stories of well-established immigrants give hope to others.
The Africa Italy Excellence Awards are handed out annually to recognize Africans who have made a significant contribution to the integration of Africans in Italy or who have promoted the image of Africans in Italy. Different categories include Best African Entrepreneur, Best African Writer and the African Personality of the Year. The aim of these awards is get Africans to reach higher and realize their full potential in their new country.
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