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Wallonia lies in the south of Belgium and covers a total area of 16 844 km², over half of the total national territory. The land rises gradually from west to east, reaching its highest point in the Signal de Botrange (694 m). The region has a climate which is influenced by the Gulf Stream and thus characterised by mild temperatures, heavy cloud cover and often abundant precipitation.

The region has 3.,413,000 inhabitants, and a density of 202 people per square km. The population of Wallonia has grown continuously since 1990, being 3.1% higher in 2001. This is due both to positive net migration over the decade as a whole and to the natural growth figure. Of the total population registered in 2002 (3 358 600 inhabitants), 52% were women.

The region has modern infrastructures. Motorways and railroads link the region with the rest of Belgium and abroad. Brussels airport is close to the region and reachable easily from every part of the region.
The metalworking, electrical and textile industries, together with the extraction and processing of non-ferrous minerals (glass, sodium), were the mainstays of Wallonia's economy until the third quarter of the twentieth century, when these strengths became weaknesses.

Shaken by the changes to the world economic order, but strengthened by its industrial tradition, highly skilled workforce and its research and development skills, Wallonia has embarked on a long process of converting and modernising its production apparatus in a bid to boost output and innovation potential in traditional sectors (which are still preponderant) and to steer production towards new technologies. Of these, biotechnology and new materials are two areas where there have been particularly high levels of investment.

Wallonia's infrastructure and economic activities revolve around two axes. Firstly, the north-south axis links Walloon Brabant (South of Brussels) to the province of Luxembourg, which borders the Grand Duchy of the same name. This axis was essentially rural, had a low population density and no major built-up areas.

It has recently seen new development, the three focal points being as follows:in the north, the industrial zones of Wavre and Nivelles (light industry and the distributive trades), and the science parks of Louvain-la-Neuve and Gembloux (university institutions); in the centre, the development of the city of Namur, the capital of the Walloon region; in the south, the revival of the Athus-Arlon region, mainly by means of the "European development centre" set up in collaboration with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and France in this border zone.

Secondly, the east-west axis along the Sambre/Meuse that links Wallonia's two large traditional industrials basins of Liège and Charleroi. These are centred on the iron and steel and electromechanical industries, and are finding new ways of developing, by modernising production and extending the following branches: aeronautics, new materials, electronics, computing, etc. The GDP of the region of Wallonia is near 62 000 million euros, or 24% of the figure for the country as a whole. Per capita gross value added at base prices in the region amounted to 17,000 euros, compared with the national figure of 22,442 euros.

In 2001 around 1,209,000 people were in employment in the region, 9% more than in 1991. More than 138,000 jobs were created during the decade in the service sector, which in 2001 employed about 74% of the working population. The other two sectors recorded losses in the number of jobs, with agriculture losing about 26 000 jobs and industry about 12 000.

The ratio of men and women in services is practically 50/50, but in the public sector and education men have 37% of jobs, and in industry 86%. The employed working population of both men and women showed a net increase from 1990 to 2001. The male employed working population increased by 2.8%, while the female employed working population increased by +19.3%. The activity rate of women (39.8%) is still much lower than that of men (58.9%).

The unemployment rate is 12% of the active population (female - 13%). In 2001 the long-term unemployment rate was 60%, high above the national average.

Parts of the region belong to EU objective 1 phasing out (the western area), and other parts belong to EU objective 2 for the period 2000-2006.
The region spends more than 2% of its GDP in Research and Development.
During the period 2004-2005 Wallonia implemented a RPIA with total resources of Euro 6,000 million (Euro 3,000 million - European Commission, Euro 3,000 million - public investment). The programme's priorities were:

  • Reinforce competitiveness in the region and its enterprises, by encouraging the same enterprises to make the most of ICT and the numerous telematic applications that these offer, in an optic of support for innovation;

  • To raise awareness with a view to an operative structure based on new tools for the management of innovation and knowledge, for auto-evaluation of needs and to pilot innovation;

  • Reduce the numerous social and territorial divisions through cohesion among disadvantaged groups and coaching in enterprises, in particular the smallest located in the most isolated areas, to help them take the first step to entering the information society;

  • Sustain a balanced economic development by making available to regional development actors an Intranet/Extranet network geared towards optimising information flows between enterprises at the heart of economic activities, land settlement and environmental planning.