ROME - More than 500 entrepreneurs met at a two-day Ernst & Young (EY) Strategic Growth Forum in Rome on Thursday to discuss Italy's involvement in unlocking the growth potential of the Mediterranean.
Italy should play a key role in Mediterranean investment, an area worth 15% of world GDP and one of the preferred destinations for direct foreign investment, forum participants said.
Foreign investments worth 85 billion dollars entered the Mediterranean basin in 2013 - an amount higher than that destined for China.
EY Italy CEO Donato Iacovone explained that Italy must play a key role in this region, which will have 750 million inhabitants by 2040.
"Italy is viewed very positively in the Mediterranean region and investors expect it to a driving force in this territory," Iacovone said.
All 27 area countries are attractive to investors in spite of the fact that some are plagued by political instability and lack of transparency, analysts said.
Business and financial services and the digital industry offer the best investment opportunities in the Mediterranean, according to the BaroMed2015 study.
The study also showed telecommunications, media and technology, retail, consumer products and energy companies had the most acquisitions activity.
Tourism, real estate and infrastructure companies also proved of interest.
"In Italy, the most attractive sectors are food, manufacturing - where we are traditionally a leader - and fashion," Iacovone said.
Speaking more generally about the Mediterranean, Iacovone indicated sectors that will drive growth in the near future: "telecommunications and media - which will converge more and more - health care for an aging population, and new technologies allowing us to treat the chronically ill at home".
The EY chief said Italy needs to overcome some problems - such as an unwieldy public administration system and lack of infrastructure - in order to reach its potential.
"Italy has a plan for the development of infrastructure and digitization," he added.
"The Mediterranean has great potential...which is why it is high on the EU agenda," Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi said.
"We want to strengthen cooperation in many areas, although the situation is not easy. It is a process we must undertake together".