Europe and Africa agree transport cooperation

The European Commission has agreed to strengthen cooperation between Europe and Africa in the transport sector.

In a formal Communication to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, the EC says it aims to connect the Trans-European and African networks, in particular through developing a common map of transport infrastructures.

The Commission will make available the experience it has gained from European transport policy to its African partners, in order to contribute to the implementation of a more integrated and efficient transport system.

EC vice-president Antonio Tajani, responsible for transport, held a joint press conference with Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal and Coordinator of Infrastructure, Environment, NICT and Energy Sectors of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) to mark the adoption of the Communication.

Mr Tajani said: "Through this communication, I wish to put the strengthening of the links between the Trans-European and African network at the heart of Commission's actions. We are offering Africa a genuine strategic partnership in transport based on a more systematic cooperation in all transport sectors, including urban transport."

Africa has the highest transport costs of any continent in the world, accounting for an average 15 per cent of export earnings, against 7 per cent in the developing countries on other continents and 4 per cent in industrialised countries. In land-locked African countries, such as Malawi or Chad, transport costs can reach 50 per cent of export earnings.

In addition there are a number of persistent weaknesses in the transport system. The road density in Africa remains low (6.84km per 100km2 compared with 12km in Latin America and 18km in Asia). The African rail network is poorly interconnected, especially in Western and Central Africa, and more than fifteen countries do not have railways at all. Only three African airports appear among the first 150 world airports in terms of passenger capacity. The African maritime fleet is old, with almost 80 per cent of its vessels older than 15 years (against a world average of 15 per cent).

This situation does not only affect the economy of African countries but also represents a barrier to their development, as regards health, education and employment.

This Commission Communication is intended to be the starting point of a strategic dialogue with the African Union to identify concrete measures in the field of transport that could be studied in greater detail with all African and European partners.

Mr Tajani commented: "With appropriate infrastructure and quality services, both between the two continents and in Africa itself, transport will become one of the engines of the continent's development which will contribute - among other things - to stabilising migration flows."

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