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EU and South Africa to co-operate on surface transport research

European Union and South African officials met in Pretoria and Stellenbosch on 10-14 July 2007, agreeing an Action Plan and adopting a Joint Statement on co-operative surface transport R&D.

SIMBA project
Moving forward on South
African surface transport

“The timing of the meeting was excellent,” says European Commission Project Officer Patrick Mercier-Handisyde. “Both EU and South African science and technology strategies in surface transport seem to be in line in terms of content and political momentum.”

During their stay in South Africa, EC officials engaged with local researchers specialising in surface transport, i.e. road, rail and waterborne, R&D. The delegation, which included Luisa Prista, Head of DG Research’s Surface Transport Unit, also participated in Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) promotion events presented as part of the European South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP).

The events also coincided with the South African workshop on the Sixth Framework Programme ‘SIMBA’ project, aimed at strengthening road transport research co-operation between Europe and emerging international markets.

Specific goals

The Action Plan set out various short-, medium- and long-term actions to promote co-operation. These include the reciprocal participation of European and South African experts in strategic events, regular exchanges of information, and fostering of links between South Africa and the European Technology Platforms related to surface transport, all with the specific aim of promoting expanded South African participation in FP7 surface transport activities.

Patrick Mercier-Handisyde, Luisa Prista and Mmbonemi Muofhe
Patrick Mercier-Handisyde,
Luisa Prista and
South Africa’s Mmbonemi

Under the Action Plan, specific R&D areas will be identified where co-operation will be promoted in a concerted manner. These could include urban traffic information systems, road safety, and mobility management for large events, with an eye to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The Action Plan will be updated and revised through an ongoing and regular dialogue between the parties.

The Joint Statement also emphasised the rich potential for R&D co-operation to address global surface transport challenges, for example related to climate change or urban mobility.

Real action

“In terms of science and technology,” says Mercier-Handisyde, “the potential for co-operation is huge. The EU and South Africa share a number interests in surface transport research. South Africa has put transport at the heart of its economy, with a formidable science and technology strategy that supports economic growth while also considering social dimensions, capacity building and global challenges such as climate change.”

EC officials say concrete proposals for co-operative research initiatives are now expected in 2008. Actions already underway in 2007 include:

  • Discussions on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the European Consensus on Development and EU Strategy for Africa.
  • The Commission Communication 'Towards the EU-SA Strategic Partnership', adopted in June 2007, gives input for the preparation for the EU-Africa Council to be held under the Portuguese Presidency in December 2007.
  • Revision of the Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement (TDCA), now to include a new article on South Africa and science and technology.
  • The revised Green Paper on the European Research Area (ERA) is to include a chapter on 'opening ERA to the world'.