Togo enjoys an enviable strategic position. Nestled between Ghana and Benin on the Gulf of Guinea, and bordered by Burkina Faso to the north, it is centrally located in west Africa.
The country's government hopes to utilise this locational advantage to become a leading logistics and transshipment hub. From the capital Lomé, which possesses west Africa’s only natural deep-water port, Togo plans to develop its road, rail and port infrastructure to bolster trade with fellow members of Ecowas, west Africa’s largest trading bloc, and beyond.
The initiatives in Togo’s national development plan (PND) 2018-2022 to transform the agricultural sector and set up manufacturing and extractive industries will rely on logistics, so transport infrastructure will be key to achieving these ambitions. “Infrastructure is very important to be able to both transport agricultural goods from rural communities to the ports, and provide a maritime connection to the hinterland countries,” says Yves Badohu, vice-president of Togo’s national council of employers, Patronat.
Both private sector and government infrastructure investments have enabled the port of Lomé to accommodate the largest container ships in west Africa. From 2014 to 2018, the number of standard containers (TEUs) handled at the port rose by 267%, according to the port authority. It is currently both the most connected liner and largest container port in west Africa.
The government hopes that further investment will boost growing activity at the port. In 2019, global shipping company MSC announced plans, alongside a number of development institutions, to invest €500m into Lomé’s container terminal.
Investment in the energy and transportation infrastructure spurred Togo’s investment rate to rise from 12% of GDP to 26% between 2012 and 2015, according to the African Development Bank. The Togolese government has earmarked a site for public-partnership development of a multi-service logistics platform around the port of Lomé, to bolster its capabilities.
Togo’s has two international airports, its main Lomé-Tokoin airport in the capital and another in its Kara region. Lomé’s airport, which opened a new terminal building in 2016, is home to the national carrier ASKY, and it is the west African hub of Ethiopian Airlines. With non-stop flights to 19 destinations across 17 countries, including Houston and New York in the US, Togo’s main airport is beginning to widen its international reach. However, it still only offers one direct European flight, to Paris.
Logistics company Time:matters, a subsidiary of Germany’s main airline Lufthansa, opened a delivery hub in Lomé in 2019, one of 16 hubs the company opened across Africa last year. The Togolese government hopes to leverage such investments to make Lomé an important node for international travel and trade across the region.
Togo’s PND also aims to create a business hub in and around Lomé, to build on incumbent foreign financial and business services firms, such as Majorel (a subsidiary of Germany-based Bertelsmann), which announced plans to open a contact call centre in Lomé in July 2019.
Another key PND project is the Transport Corridor, which lays out plans for public-private partnerships to construct rail infrastructure and improve road and telecommunications infrastructure. The national road network stood at 11,777 kilometres in 2016, of which 40% was deemed to be in a 'bad' condition.
Renovation and construction of these roads, particularly to hinterland countries, will be key to Togo’s logistical ambitions. A $325m infrastructure project, which was 70% financed by the African Development Fund, is currently under way to renovate 150 kilometres of roads in Togo and a further 153 kilometres in Burkina Faso. The national highway project, which involves the construction of a road from Lomé to Cinkasse in northern Togo, aims to improve hinterland connection further.
The Togolese government has also unveiled plans for a public-private partnership to improve the rail network. It proposes a main line stretching 760 kilometres from Lomé to Cinkassa’s planned dry port, to transport phosphate. “The objective is to put some infrastructure in place all around the country and alongside these highways,” says Kanka-Malik Natchaba, the head of Togo’s presidential unit for implementing strategic projects.
“We think Togo is on the move. Our PND gives a good platform to all investors who can both make a return and help us develop our country,” he adds.