- The government of Spain's autonomous Canary Islands has looked through its economic aid to West Africa - mostly nearby Morocco - during the last ten years and found that it had totally co-financed 165 projects with euro 17 million. Aid levels have steadily grown, and for 2006, the Canary Islands have budgeted euro 8 million for Africa. Now, transport links between the archipelago and north-west Africa are to improve.
The spokesman of the Canary Islands government, Miguel Becerra and the Commissioner ("Minister") of Foreign Action, Javier Morales, this weekend at a press conference presented an overview of the autonomous government's foreign projects in Africa, America and Europe.
Relating to Africa, the government spokesman emphasised on the "intensification of contacts" with the nearby continent. The most striking example was Morocco, located only 100 kilometres east of the archipelago, he said. Relations were very good, as illustrated during Canary Islands President Adán Martín's recent visit in Tan Tan and his participation at the bilateral Spanish-Moroccan summit in Granada, the spokesman noted.
Mr Becerra indicated that the Canarian policy of cooperation with Africa "has been growing gradually during the last ten years, in which there have been invested in 165 projects, totalling euro 17 million." While in 1995, only euro one million when to African development projects, the 2006 budget post for cooperation with Africa has reached euro 8 million. The Canary Islands have focused their cooperation especially on education, health and infrastructure, according to the overview.
The spokesman also said it had been important to bring the populations of Canary Islands and West Africa closer together. In that aspect, Mr Becerra said, "the closer cooperation has paid off in the communication sector as there currently exist three weekly flights to El Aaiun, two to Marrakech and a new connection to Agadir and Casablanca is in the process of being opened." Connections with West Africa however remain poor, with one weekly flight to Praia and Dakar.
At the same, the government spokesman noted, it had been Canarian companies who had won an international tenure to develop tourism in the Moroccan region of Tagazus and signed a convent with Moroccan authorities to exploit the port of Tarfaya. The latter is seen as a potential host for a ferry connection with the Canary Islands.
Also another gain had been important, Mr Becerra pointed out. "The establishment of the Casa de África [Africa House] will be in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and counts on a budget of almost euro 4 million [mostly paid by the central government of Spain]," the spokesman noted. Casa de África is set to be Spain's contact point with Africa and the Canarian capital competed with other Spanish cities to host the centre. "The Canarian government sees this project as a key motor for political, social, economic and cultural events," Mr Becerra concluded.
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