Togo renews its port performances. This achievement is the fruit of the strong ambitions of its leaders. Edem Kokou Tengue, who is in charge of the sector, takes us on a delightful tour of the interstices of his mission. He is Togo’s Minister for the Maritime Economy, Fisheries and Coastal Protection.
His schedule is tightly controlled. Despite his goodwill, it sometimes seems impossible to get hold of him for an elaborate interview in Lomé. Clearly, Minister Edem Kokou Tengue holds a strategic portfolio in Togo. Passing through Paris for a meeting with the business establishment, he honoured us with a break. He sat down for an interview. He analyses the strategy behind the renewed success of Togo’s blue economy. Although he keeps a low profile, Edem Kokou Tengue remains a key player in the country’s government. The proof is in his hard work and proven track record in the field. Here is an interview with the privileges of a connoisseur of port issues.
Mr Minister, how are you going to consolidate Togo’s renewed prowess as Africa’s leading port?
The idea of consolidating the position of the Port Autonome de Lomé as the leading container port in sub-Saharan Africa is a position that has been hard won through the vision of the Head of State, President Faure Gnassingbé, and one that we have no intention of abandoning. To consolidate our lead over other ports in the region, we intend to continue making physical investments, but also to work on trade facilitation to achieve excellence in this area and ensure that export and import procedures through the Port of Lomé are as easy as possible.
Next, we fully intend to see if there are any additional requests for investment from the Port of Lomé’s partners and to make these requests in order to confirm and consolidate our position. It’s no secret that major physical investments have been made by competing ports in the region. But we believe that the issue of trade facilitation, transport facilitation, the issue of the smoothest possible trade flows between Togo and the landlocked countries of the sub-region, we are thinking in particular of Burkina-Faso, Niger and Mali. When these flows are facilitated and optimised, we believe that this will enable us to maintain the lead we have fought so hard to achieve. That’s how we intend to control the flows. We will ensure that Togo, or the Port Autonome de Lomé, remains the leading container port in sub-Saharan Africa.
Why is the Port Autonome of Lomé more advantageous for users than its counterparts in the sub-region?
Perhaps the question should be put to users. But we have our own idea. Togo has taken major steps under the public-private partnership to modify its reception facilities, enabling the Port of Lomé to accommodate the latest generation of ships. That’s the first thing. But I think the most important thing is all the reforms under the leadership of the Head of State, in terms of improving the business climate, which has enabled Togo to consolidate its position. Because importers and exporters using the port of Lomé find it easier to do business than elsewhere.
We also believe that the unique strategic position of Togo itself, at the heart of West Africa, means that several of our region’s trading points can be linked in a very short space of time. Over and above the infrastructure and trade facilitation aspects, and the general framework in which business is done, I believe that Togo also combines the undeniable strength of being a regional hub for air transport, and of combining two or three modes of transport: air, road and sea. This means that all the capitals of the sub-region can be reached in a very short time, in terms of reliability and speed of operations. In our view, these are the ingredients for Lomé’s success as a first-rate logistics hub in the sub-region.
You’ve been Minister for the Maritime Economy, Fisheries and Coastal Protection for three years now. What are your sources of satisfaction?
First of all, I think we should salute the choice of our humble selves to lead this ministry, which is strategic to economic development and the implementation of the government’s roadmap for the period 2021-2025. Once again, I would like to thank the Head of State for placing his trust in us. I think the first source of satisfaction is that we haven’t seen a drop in volume. In fact, Togo is making steady progress as a container port. I think that’s a wonderful source of satisfaction. We have been appointed to the government in 2020. And since 2021, Togo has joined the ranking of the world’s top 100 ports in 98th place and has been climbing ever since. In 2022, it will be in 96th place, and in 2023 in 94th place.
The second source of satisfaction is that we have also witnessed a much more dynamic port. In addition, with much more dynamic players understood the policy of the Head of State and who adhere to it through their daily activities. The third source of satisfaction is that we are committed to making Lomé a logistics hub, and we have created the Adétikopé dry port. Also here, we can see that discussions with all those involved in the hub are well underway. This dry port on the Adétikopé platform is in the process of becoming operational. If we succeed in making the Adétikopé dry port operational, I think we will have achieved something unprecedented in the history of dry ports in Africa. In other words, a real dry port, located outside the seaport and serving all shipping lines rather than just one. The experiences we’ve seen here and there in Africa tend to be potage areas or storage areas belonging to different shipping lines. But here, it will be a real dry port that will be an extension of the seaport. We think this will be a major step forward.
The fourth source of satisfaction is the existence of this ministry. It has also made it possible to act on important factors, such as the drop in incidents involving ships flying the Togolese flag. Obviously, they have not been totally eradicated, but we believe that for some time now, incidents linked to ships flying the Togolese flag have fallen considerably. Finally, the last source of satisfaction is that Togo is better at applying international conventions in terms of safety and security. We have also seen a reduction in acts of piracy and illegal acts at sea. So we are committed, we have many other projects for the ministry, and we hope to be able to bring them to fruition, within the framework of the government’s roadmap, and under the leadership of the Head of State.
You’re also an expert in the blue economy, so we’re tempted to ask you what are the challenges of this economy for Togo?
I think that to say that we are an expert in the maritime economy is an overstatement. That said, the blue economy has a number of assets. Because it’s about all the dynamics linked to maritime activities and coastlines. I think we have huge stakes here. Firstly in the development of maritime transport, and the opening up of the whole West African region to world trade, world maritime trade. How can we ensure that we have a strong, dynamic port capable of serving the economic development not just of Togo, but of all the countries in the sub-region? That’s the first challenge.
The second challenge relates to fishing and aquaculture. How can we ensure that our countries are self-sufficient in terms of fisheries’ resources and turn fishing into a real lever for economic transformation, creating jobs and meeting people’s food needs? Finally, there are all the issues relating to biodiversity at sea, coastal protection, marine life and so on. These are major issues for Togo. These are challenges we intend to meet.
Told to Alain Metodjo