Africa-EU: cooperation still precarious

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In February, the Transport Task Force on Connectivity for Africa delivered its final report.

The two continents have long since began cooperating more closely. This is also the case in the transport sector, in particular through the drafting of the Regional Transport Action Plans (RTAP) in the 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 periods.

Despite significant commercial exchanges (about 300 billion euros in 2019, with imports and exports almost equal), the interconnections between the European and African transport systems, as well as the degree of market opening to European companies, are still limited and insufficient to meet the continent’s growth requirements.

Among the reasons for these difficulties the report mentions customs and goods clearance procedures, which continue to be extremely complex, the current restrictions on contractual freedom, with the obligation, for example, in some countries to use government-controlled agencies for the management of goods transportation formalities, and, in some countries, even the interference of port authorities setting handling tariffs for goods transiting in ports.

The current critical issues in the Euro-African trade scenario cannot be overcome simply with a stronger cooperation and planning of services and infrastructures. New, additional investments are necessary , which at the moment require not only foreign experts and consultants to design and build infrastructure networks, but also a large amount of foreign capital to complete the sector’s development plans (estimated at 4% of Africa’s annual GDP, including maintenance costs).

Undoubtedly, a greater standardization of transport procedures and policies between African countries could in this sense contribute to more effective connections. On the Euro-Mediterranean front, it should be noted that to date there is still no map of the current interconnections between TEN-T networks (i.e. trans-European transport networks) and the corresponding African transport networks.

The recommendations and developments that outline the cooperation strategy between the European Union and Africa are based on a forecast of progressive growth in political and economic integration between African states. Although this is still rather limited, especially if we consider that goods traffic between African countries represents less than 20% of their total trade. America, Asia and Europe, on the other hand, reserve respectively 55, 59 and 68% of their total goods traffic for intercontinental trade. This evidently means that African national markets are still poorly interconnected.

More specifically, with regards to the transport sector, what is needed is a long process of regulatory standardization, intermodal investments and setting up a real trans-Mediterranean transport network, linked to the European TEN-T through Motorways-of- the Sea connections between European and African ports.In this scenario, sea ports will therefore be called upon to make a major effort to improve the continent’s overall connectivity, bearing in mind that there are many African countries without any access to the sea and therefore with serious and long-term problems in entering international markets.


Promote the implementation of a real trans-Mediterranean transport network, connected to the European TEN-Ts