Bilateral Profiles and National Agencies > Italy

General information on Italian development cooperation

Development cooperation is an essential part of Italian Foreign Policy. The main Italian institution involved in these activities is the Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) set up in 1987 within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Another important development governmental institution is the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), which takes care of relationships with international financial institutions (IFIs). Other actors in this field are local government entities, universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Aid for Trade (AfT) strategy

Italy has not yet adopted an AfT strategy, but the Italian Development Cooperation Guidelines for the period 2012-14 consider AfT one of the key elements for inclusive and sustainable development of the private sector, which is one of Italian development cooperation’s priorities.

Principal official agency responsible for TCB assistance to developing countries


Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Piazzale della Farnesina, 1

I-00135 Rome

Tel.: +39 0636911



Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), of the Italian MFA, is the main Italian organization for development activities. It finances development initiatives to be implemented directly or in collaboration with NGOs, other Italian institutions and international organizations. All initiatives involving significant financial commitments are approved by a Board of Directors. According the Cooperation Strategy Paper adopted by DGCS for the period 2012-14, the priority sectors are:

  • Agriculture and food security;
  • Health;
  • Education;
  • Governance;
  • Civil society; and
  • The private sector.

In the same three-year period, official development assistance (ODA) made available each year by the Parliament will be allocated for initiatives in the following regions:

  • 40 per cent: Sub-Saharan countries;
  • 34 per cent: Mediterranean countries;
  • 18 per cent: Asia;
  • 8 per cent: Latin America

Other official or government trade-related organizations

Centro di Studio per l’Applicazione dell’Informatica in Agricoltura (CeSIA): the Center’s aim is to develop research in computer skills targeted at the agro-food and forestry sectors. Its activities are focused on developing technology tools for the design, creation and updating of GIS-oriented databases, and the development of operational programmes for the protection and management of agro-forestry and eco-environmental analysis using GIS and remote sensing. Since its creation, the Center has been actively involved in several European Union research projects. It also aims at developing initiatives and training opportunities for practitioners and researchers in the environment and land planning sectors, and at promoting international efforts to encourage the creation of a European network of knowledge in these areas.

For more information:

Federation of Italian Exporters and Importers (FIEI): FIEI promotes the expansion of Italian companies in foreign markets, representing their interests since 1980. It offers and coordinates import–export services through its ten affiliated Export-Import Associations. It also publish a monthly international market journal and magazines, carrying out studies and research in the area of foreign trade and markets, and it runs an Import Promotion Desk.

For more information:

Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI): the IAI’s main objective is to promote an understanding of the problems of international politics through studies, research, meetings and publications, with the aim of increasing the opportunities of all countries to move in the direction of supranational organization, democratic freedom and social justice. The Institute offers members and non-members standard and personalized services. An example of the latter is the Laboratory’s Global Outlook. The IAI organizes a number of meetings, round tables and conferences on international trade, in order to encourage thinking on Italy’s strategic options in the field of trade relations and policies, and to involve decision-makers at various institutional levels. On specific issues or problems related to the WTO and international trade, reports are commissioned from international experts and/or ad hoc documentation or dossiers are produced.

For more information: E-mail: and

Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare (Ismea): Ismea was set up by a decree in 1999. It aims at supporting the development of the Italian agricultural sector. Various activities previously carried out by different public entities were streamlined and integrated under it. According to the decree, the institution’s main task is to offer financial, insurance and information services to agricultural companies in order to: (i) increase their competitiveness and reduce their risks; (ii) facilitate their relations with banks, insurance companies and markets; and (iii) improve market transparency and information sharing.

For more information:

Italian Export Credit Agency (SACE): SACE is aimed to help companies in developing foreign business and investments through insurance cover. Formerly an Italian governmental agency, SACE S.p.A. was converted in 2004 into a private corporate entity, fully owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.

For more information:

Italian Trade Commission (I.C.E. Istituto Nazionale per il Commercio Estero), is the governmental agency entrusted with promoting trade, business opportunities and industrial cooperation between Italian and foreign companies. It supports the internationalization of Italian firms and their consolidation in foreign markets and it provides information and assistance to all those foreign companies that wish to develop business with their Italian counterparts. In particular, it provides: (i) the Italian economic outlook (an overview of the fundamentals of the Italian economy) and information on Italian foreign trade and national trade policies; (ii) up-to-date information on Italian laws and regulations to attract foreign investments and give assistance to foreign investors; and (iii) a specialized website dedicated to the major sectors of Italian production. It houses an official directory of Italian companies, which is accessible both by sector and geographical market of interest, and gathers offers and requests coming from foreign companies interested in developing business with Italian partners. All submitted requests and offers are stored in a database that can be accessed by sector and market, enabling Italian companies to consider the various proposals.

Foreign companies can also find details of trade fairs and exhibitions held in Italy throughout the year.

For more information:

National Institute of Statistics (Istat): Istat collects and produces data on the Italian economy and Society, making them available for study and decision-making purposes. A public research body acting in full autonomy, Istat is governed by a president and a board of directors who plan and evaluate its activities. It is very active in international cooperation projects, aiming at strengthening the statistical capacity of transition and developing countries and supporting candidate countries in lining up with the standards of the European Statistical System. At present, Istat’s technical assistance is addressed primarily to the Balkans, the Newly Independent States, EU Candidate Countries and Mediterranean countries, but it also cooperates with countries in Africa (Cape Verde and Mozambique), Latin America and China. The results of these programs are a learning tool for institutional users, businesses and associations engaged in or interested in these areas.

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SIMEST is a finance institution which promotes direct investment by Italian companies outside the European Union. It provides technical and financial support for projects, and administers various forms of public support for the internationalization of the Italian economy.

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TCB cooperation initiatives with UN/international agencies and bilateral partners

Italy’s main form of collaboration with UN/international agencies is based on financial agreements with relevant agencies. The financing mechanism is based on grants. Italy has arrangements with UNIDO; UN-HABITAT; FAO; the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies/European Investment Bank (EIB); the World Bank; AfDB and other IFIs.

Data collection and reporting are based on reports from the implementation agency or from the Italian embassy/cooperation offices network.

Monitoring and evaluation reports are obtained from the implementation agency, reports from the Italian embassy/cooperation offices network and monitoring and evaluation missions from headquarters.

Categories of aid, according to the classification, are as follows:


Selected TCB programmes and initiatives in this guide


  • Projects in South Africa, Vietnam, Tunisia and Egypt


  • Integrated financial and technical assistance for SMEs development (soft loan plus grant) - Albania
  • Strengthening and internationalization of the productive sector of General District of San Martin, promoted by the NGO CISP - Argentina
  • Private Sector Development Platform (soft loan plus grant) - Ghana
  • Quality and competitiveness improvement of Lebanese agricultural production for exportation, implemented by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies - Lebanon
  • Enterprise creation and internationalization of West African enterprises, realized with the University of Reggo Calabria - West Africa (Regional)
  • Modernization and technological upgrading of industries (soft loan plus grant) - Syria


  • Programme for the reinforcement of the Training Institute for MERCOSUR – IMEF, realized by CIRPS University “La Sapienza” of Rome - South America
  • Capacity building to the ODS (Office Dévéloppement Sud) for investment promotion, technological upgrading and trade capacity of South Tunisian SMEs - Tunisia


  • Road rehabilitation programme (Kabul – Bamyan) - Afghanistan
  • Project facility for infrastructure feasibility studies - Albania;
  • Training to the personnel of the big harbor of Al Faw - Iraq
  • Rehabilitation of infrastructures of harbor and roads of Bosasso in the State of Puntland – Somalia. Multilateral financing to UN-Habitat
  • Contribution of € 500,000 to EIB for the EU – African Infrastructure Partnership Trust Fund


  • Credit access and support to the commercialization of agricultural production in Quiché - Guatemala
  • Credit access in the sector of microfinance (Soft loan plus grant) - Peru