Africa must make efficient transport systems a priority, senior UN official says

6 April 2005 –

A United Nations advocate for landlocked developing countries told a conference today that the lack of efficient transport systems in many of these nations, especially in Africa, is draining their earnings and retarding their development.

The UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, told a gathering of African ministers of transport and infrastructure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that improving transport services must be a priority for the continent's poorer States.

Mr. Chowdhury said 10 of Africa's 15 landlocked countries – Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda and Uganda – spend as much as 40 per cent of their annual export earnings on transport and insurance services as they try to overcome their lack of direct access to the sea.

"This is a huge burden and priority should be given to easing this burden," he said, noting that Africa has almost half of the world's 31 States classed as Landlocked Developing Countries.

Mr. Chowdhury urged African countries to make use of the technical cooperation offered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help them drive down the cost of transporting freight.

Last week the Under-Secretary-General told the High-Level Meeting in Kazakhstan on the role of multilateral organizations in implementing the Almaty Programme of Action (APoA), which seeks to help landlocked nations, that there should be broad international agreement on what are acceptable indicators to measure progress in improving transport services.

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