Sea transport was more efficient than land transport throughout most of the development of civilisation - from the late neolithic or early bronze age until today. Coastal areas had higher scale, and were more populous and more advanced than inland regions.
Therefore, other things being equal, regions with a large amount of coastline for a given landmass developed faster and further. Europe benefited from this, since it is a relatively small continent with a long, convoluted coastline. By contrast, Africa and Asia, with smoother, more rounded shapes that encompassed a much bigger area, were at a developmental disadvantage.
We call the ratio of a region's coastline to its surface area, the specific coastline. Values of the specific coastline for various regions are as follows:
Source: N Rashevsky Looking at history through mathematics (Cambridge, MA 1968) pp. 132-3.
The advantage of Europe, especially western Europe (excluding Russia and Poland), is clear. Its high specific coastline helped it to develop faster than other regions during the last half-millennium of ocean-going transport. This advantage has diminished with the growth of land and air transport, and will all but disappear as humanity transitions to a space-based economy.
Europe appears even more advantaged when we consider the specific river coastline (ratio of total river length to area). For Europe, this is 9 x 10-3 km-1, compared with 1 x 10-3 km-1 for China, and 5 x 10-4 km-1 for India. Europe's total coastline (river and sea) is nearly ten times that of China or India (Rashevsky Looking at history through mathematics p. 133).