The last decade has seen increased European efforts to scale up its infrastructure. By building a strong, modern and reliable network, the EU aims to secure jobs and engender growth and competitiveness – trans-European networks and the European recovery plan’s objectives serve as prime examples. Beyond enhancing internal connectivity, recent initiatives have seen the EU looking beyond its borders. The latest such initiative is the EU-India Connectivity Partnership, through which both parties aim to drive increased connectivity between their regions, as well as with third countries throughout Africa, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific. Through this and other initiatives – such as the EU’s 2019 Strategy for Connecting Europe & Asia – the EU and India have both signalled their ambition for global leadership in connectivity and to play a role in reducing the development gap.
But they are far from the only players on the stage. Connectivity projects around the world, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are improving infrastructure networks domestically while also creating significant opportunities abroad, including throughout the Balkans and across the African continent. Both Asian and European infrastructure efforts over the past decade have led the transformation towards a better-connected global scene. But as the pandemic has highlighted how supply chains are still extremely vulnerable and prone to bottlenecks, better connectivity will be critical to prevent future shocks.
This Policy Insight will bring together experts and policy actors to discuss the opportunities and challenges for connectivity initiatives, as well as highlight areas for cooperation.
This discussion is part of our Europe-China Dialogue, which sits within a broader framework of Europe – Asia dialogues, a series that looks at the areas of convergence and divergence between Europe and Asia as a whole, on structural and thematic issues of economics – trade and investment, connectivity, health, and biodiversity amongst others.
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Questions for discussion include:
- How can connectivity be a driver for collaboration across Afro-Eurasia, and what good examples already exist?
- What role should the private sector play in building resilient and modern infrastructure?
- What hope is there for building a multilateral connectivity framework for Afro-Eurasia?
Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson
Dr. Zhang Xiaotong
Professor at the Institute of Belt and Road Initiative & Global Governance at Fudan University
Senior Advisor China and Co-Dean of the Sino German Young Professional Campus
Andre Didace Ciseau
Secretary-General for the Port Management Association of Eastern & Southern Africa (PMAESA)
Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.
Dr. Zhang Xiaotong is a veteran professor and researcher whose major research interests include economic diplomacy, geopolitics and European studies. Prior to his current role, he was a professor at Wuhan University’s School of Political Science and Public Administration and the executive director of the Wuhan University Centre for Economic Diplomacy. Formerly a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Zhang has also worked at the US Desk of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and served as the trade attaché at the Chinese Mission to the European Union in Brussels.
Astrid Skala-Kuhmann is an expert in emerging markets and sustainability issues with a focus on China, having served for six years as GIZ’s chief resident representative and country director there. She later served as GIZ’s Director-General of Global Partnerships – Emerging Economies. In her current capacity, she advises on matters related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Skala-Kuhmann is also co-dean for the “Zukunftsbrücke” (Sino-German Young Professional Campus) and a supervisory board member of Lenzing AG and Semperit AG, Austria, both stock-listed with global scopes.
Alongside his role at PMAESA, Andre Didace Ciseau is also the current Executive Secretary for the Pan-African Association for Port Cooperation (PAPC). Ciseau brings with him extensive experience in the maritime and ports sector arising from his tenure as Chief Executive Officer of Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA), as well as his focus on the development of the Blue Economy for Seychelles by working with the Depart of the Blue Economy established by the Government of Seychelles in 2015. He also served in the Seychelles People’s Defence Force (SPDF) with a strategic role in the development of the Seychelles Coast Guard.
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